REVISED AS OF FRIDAY, MARCH 7, 2014, 11:50 PM EST
*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder and are sensitive to negative news events ***
By now, you’ve probably already heard about the woman who drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach, Florida. Her three children–ages 3, 9 and 10–were in the minivan. And the woman was pregnant with her fourth child. When I first started reading the article, I was bracing myself to read about the tragic loss of four lives–actually, five lives if you count the unborn child–but thankfully, they did not perish in the ocean. From the little I could gather from the article, it seemed that the woman was suffering from psychosis, which is how bipolar disorder can manifest in a pregnant or postpartum woman. The 911 recording of her sister indicated that she was “talking about Jesus and that there’s demons in my house and that I’m trying to control her…..She’s, like, having psychosis or something.”
My friends and I cringed as soon as we heard about this story, just like we cringe when there is ANY news of mothers who attempt to kill their baby/children and themselves. We cringe because we know that the general population–the majority of people out there who are ignorant about postpartum mood disorders–seem ever so swift to condemn the mother’s actions.
I am sick and tired of the stigma. Sick and tired of the ignorance about maternal mental health. Sick and tired of women being failed by their doctors and by a medical system laden with holes that let all too many mothers fall through the cracks.
Are you sick and tired too? Well, join me now in signing a petition to implement universal mental health screening for every pregnant and postpartum woman. Let’s put an end to the stigma and ignorance, and get mothers the treatment they need before a postpartum mood disorder–which can affect up to 1 out of 7 new mothers–leads to tragic circumstances!
I have seen several meaningful discussions on Facebook about screening over the past 2 days. And as in past discussions surrounding proposed universal screening, there are those who are supportive…..and there were those who are not overly supportive. I know from the past 5 years of blogging and advocacy that, for every bunch of PPD survivors and advocates that voice their support for the implementation of universal mental health screening of pregnant and postpartum mothers, there is at least one individual voicing concern, and even opposing it. Why would anyone be opposed to the simple asking of a set of standardized questions to try to see if a mom might be experiencing symptoms of a perinatal mood disorder (PND), you ask? Well, these individuals are concerned that legislating such a screening would cause an already overmedicated society to fall deeper into the arms of Big Pharma and doctors even more reason to simply dole out medication prescriptions. These individuals fear that, in addition to inadequate experience with PNDs and an inadequate referral system to therapists who do have experience treating PNDs–both of which are entirely valid points, unfortunately–one too many moms will simply be prescribed medications (and sometimes the wrong ones, to boot) when what many moms do need is therapy as well. To make it more complicated, many moms will fear taking medications for fear of passing the medications on to their babies through their breast milk.
At this point, I would like to quote fellow Mama’s Comfort Camp member, Anna Tarkov (thank you, Anna, for letting me quote you!), in response to another member’s comments about preferring a cultural overhaul comprised of a national campaign to educate and support for new mothers over the implementation of universal screening…which don’t get me wrong, I absolutely agree with as well (we need all three: SCREENING, PUBLIC AWARENESS/EDUCATION, AND SUPPORT):
We can and should push the culture change [campaign to educate and support but with no screening] that needs to happen, but I just don’t know if it’s enough. For instance, it would be nice if everyone donated to those who are needy. And people still do that, but we also have taxes. It would be nice if everyone drove safely. And many people do, but we also have speed limits and other rules of the road. It would be nice if the handicapped had access to any place they want to go. But for years they didn’t and now we have regulations about that. It would be nice if investment bankers were ethical, but we have the SEC for a reason. I share your concern for medication as a sole solution, but I feel we already have this situation with our medical system. Many conditions don’t require medication and could be treated in another way. Each patient is responsible for making up their own mind and each clinician should present all the options. I thought carefully about whether I should take medication as part of my treatment and I think I made the right call for myself. If someone else chooses another path, that is fine, but if even one life of a mother or child or innocent bystander can be saved if we were to have effective screening during pregnancy and after, I would consider that a victory…….My hope would be that with better screening, clinicians can also be required to provide a lot more beyond a diagnosis. I am cautious about any new proposed policy and often what we end up with is far from perfect. But my feeling is that doing nothing isn’t an option and any step in the right direction is a good idea.
Oh, and do read and encourage others you know to read the facts, and nothing but the facts about bipolar disorder during pregnancy and postpartum. Here is just one of many places you can read up on it.
Please, please, please…..sign the petition and share widely. Let’s be the change that we so desperately need for our mothers! Thank you!