Northeast Woman: Elmhurst Twp. Counselor Offers Relief And Help To Moms
The days following childbirth fill with sleepless nights, endless feedings and a range of emotions as new mothers bond with the children they’ve so longed to meet.
When feelings of sadness and anxiety begin to win out, though, and moms find themselves searching for a way out of the darkness, that’s where Cara Koslow steps in.
The licensed professional counselor, who has an office in Blakely, specializes in perinatal (the time around childbirth) and maternal mental health, meaning she treats women fighting such conditions as postpartum depression, anxiety and psychosis.
Working in the mental health field was almost always the goal for Koslow, who noted how a family friend who was a psychologist encouraged her to pursue the field. After growing up in the Allentown area and earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Kutztown University, Koslow headed to Northeast Pennsylvania to study for her master’s degree in community counseling at University of Scranton. She met her husband, Perry, while here and stuck around NEPA, where she now lives in Elmhurst Twp.
Early in her career, Koslow felt uncertain about what aspect of counseling to focus on. She did a lot of couples counseling, and then she realized how few resources there were in the area regarding maternal mental health and that there was “just such a lack of awareness about postpartum depression” in general.
Koslow began shifting her focus to maternal mental health around 2013 and has done additional training through the Postpartum Stress Center outside Philadelphia, the 2020 Mom program and Postpartum Support International, through which she recently earned her certification in perinatal mental health. She does psychotherapy with individuals as well as couples and also addresses issues such as infertility and pregnancy loss, and she is the area coordinator for Postpartum Support International.
Women going through postpartum depression find it to be a difficult topic to discuss, Koslow said, even though approximately 21% of women experience major or minor depression after childbirth, according to Postpartum Support International. A lot of people hear the phrase “postpartum depression” and think of tragic news stories about depressed women killing their children, she said, when, in fact, that is a separate, more severe and rare condition called postpartum psychosis.
“There is a lot of misconceptions about what postpartum depression is,” Koslow said.
She wants women to know that postpartum depression is not only common but also treatable.
“The help is out there, and you can get better,” she said. “It’s a scary thing though when you’re going through it.”
The “baby blues” is a common condition that can occur right after birth and, Koslow explained, should last a few days at most. Any symptoms experienced beyond that time — along with difficulty sleeping, sadness, anxiety, panicking or difficulty being around the baby — could be signs of postpartum depression, she added.
Moms face a lot of judgment from others, Koslow said, but postpartum is a legitimate illness and not the mother’s fault.
“Part of what I do is try to normalize what other moms are going through,” she said.
Some women fear they won’t get better, but Koslow stressed that perinatal problems are “very treatable.” And she enjoys getting to help moms and see them succeed.
“It’s just really nice to be able to have them get better and feeling connected to their families and their children. ... When they get to the point of really, truly enjoying motherhood, that’s a rewarding feeling,” Koslow said.
The most challenging part of her work actually has to do with her companions in the mental-health field — the psychiatrists who can treat and prescribe medication to her patients. Koslow believes Northeast Pennsylvania has a lack of psychiatric care, which makes it tough for patients to access specialists. Obstetricians and gynecologists can help patients and prescribe medications for postpartum depression, she said, but more severe cases “need more specialized care, and there’s really nothing around here.”
Koslow has one advantage in helping these patients, though, and that’s her own experience as a mom of two. She can relate to the challenges of motherhood and the balancing act it requires.
“I feel like this is what I was meant to do,” she said.
No matter what she achieves in her professional life, though, Koslow considers her own children — Jonah, 8, and Ayla, 5 — to be her biggest accomplishment.
“I really enjoy hanging out with them, spending time with them and watching them grow,” she said.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5107; @cheaneywest on Twitter
By the numbers
Approximate number of women who experience major or minor depression after childbirth
15% to 21%
Number of pregnant women who experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety
Approximate number of new dads who have depression, mood or anxiety problems
Number of women who experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder after childbirth
3 to 5 days
How long the “baby blues” lasts after childbirth
1 to 2
Approximate number of women out of every 1,000 deliveries who develop postpartum psychosis
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health; Postpartum Support International
2020 Mom: 2020mom.org
National Institute of Mental Health: nimh.nih.gov
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free 24-hour
“The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for
Living with Postpartum Depression,” by Karen
Postpartum Support International: postpartum.net
U.S. Department of
Health & Human Services mental health initiative: mentalhealth.gov
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health: 800-994-9662 (helpline);
Meet Cara Koslow
At home: An Allentown area native, she lives in Elmhurst Twp. with her husband, Perry, and children, Jonah, 8, and Ayla, 5.
At work: Licensed professional counselor certified in treating perinatal/maternal mental health
Inspirations: Her children and husband
Aspirations: To live somewhere warm one day and for her children to do well in life, be successful and do what they love
Diversions: Exercising and spending time with friends and family
Aversion: Other people’s driving