LONG BRANCH — Carolyn Stack's first son was 20 months old before she got the help she needed for the obsessive and nerve-wrecking thoughts from which she couldn't escape.

"I was always afraid that he was going to die in any scenario," she said. "I couldn't give him a bath."

Stack, of Oakhurst, had no idea she was a victim of postpartum depression and anxiety. She didn't know the full scope of the disorder, which is said to affect 1 in 7 mothers.

When the heavy thoughts and nerves started affecting every aspect of her life, including work, she was led to a program at Monmouth Medical Center devoted specifically to new and expectant mothers who are dealing with similar issues.

Today, she's a "mentor mom" with the program's new center at the Long Branch hospital — the only such outpatient program in the state. The Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders held a grand opening ceremony May 4 at Maysie Strook Pavilion, where Stack and other PMAD survivors were on hand to share tales of their struggles before and after giving birth.

"I feel like it's my job to be able to go out there and tell my story and be able to help other families so that they don't have to go through this alone," Stack told New Jersey 101.5.

According to Lisa Tremayne, the center's director, just 15 percent of PMAD-affected mothers seek help. Most don't know assistance is available, she said, or that the care is covered by insurance.

"A mom who has a hormone drop after delivery, a chemical imbalance, and then to add on top severe sleep deprivation — it's like the perfect storm," Tremayne said. "It is the single most common complication of childbirth."

Since starting as a support group in 2011, the program has treated more than 500 patients from New Jersey and neighboring states.

The new center, which is purposely located in a building of the hospital a good distance from the maternity ward, offers patients group and individual therapy, medical assistance and other pertinent features. Mentor moms such as Stack are paired with mothers or mothers-to-be, based on individual cases. Stack's latest interaction was with a mom experiencing severe anxiety because of her new baby's health issues.

Stack overcame the postpartum battle twice. In 2015, her second son was delivered via emergency c-section due to a congenital heart defect. But this time, she was already part of the program and had the help she needed from the get-go.

Her youngest son is now 16 months old and is "doing amazing."

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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