Sign this Petition! Don’t Let Any More Mothers Fall Through the Cracks Any More

REVISED AS OF WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2014, 9:30 PM EST

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 perinatal mood disorder (PND)–a mood disorder during/after pregnancy which can affect up to 1 out of 7 new mothers–leads to tragic circumstances!

I have participated in/encountered several meaningful discussions on Facebook about screening over the past week.  I know from the past 5 years of blogging and advocacy that, for every bunch of PMD 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 PND, you ask?  Well, these individuals are concerned that legislating such a screening would cause an already over-medicated 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.

Whether we get the 100,000 signatures or not, the very least that we hope would come of this petition is to raise greater public awareness of PNDs and reduce stigma. If we were to reach 100,000 signatures, then there would have to be a federal law to INVESTIGATE the subject.  If universal screening were to come about, it would be offered to all mothers, but mothers can opt out.  There would NOT be a mandatory prescription doled out if a mother tested positive.  The desperately sought outcome of the petition would, first and foremost be, EDUCATION of doctors to screen in a non-intrusive fashion, take thyroid levels into consideration, how to provide compassionate and nonjudgmental care, etc., as well as EDUCATION of mothers about PMDs and treatment options available if she were to experience a PND.  It would be up to the mother how/if she would seek treatment.

Did you know that screening is routinely offered by many OB/GYNs already?   I have not heard any negative experiences when it comes to screening that is offered to mothers today.  A big Thank You to Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of numerous books on perinatal mood disorders for giving me permission to use this image, which I saw pop up on my Facebook feed a few days ago.

screening_Kleiman

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…..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.

You summed it up so nicely, Anna!

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 get as many signatures as possible!  Tweet about it.  Blog about it.  Share about it on Facebook.  Let’s be the change that we so desperately need for our mothers!  Let’s make sure that no more mothers fall through the cracks.  Thank you!

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13 thoughts on “Sign this Petition! Don’t Let Any More Mothers Fall Through the Cracks Any More

  1. We need to change the medical community’s view of mental health. I know a woman who’s trapped in an abusive relationship (she’s 30 weeks pregnant and on bedrest- or, rather, SHOULD be, her husband refuses to help with her 3 kids or housework, won’t get her food, and shouts at her when the pain and contractions get so bad that she has to lie down) and has been seeking out counseling. She’s been told that it’s not a good idea to start counseling while pregnant, so she isn’t being referred. I know another woman who was suffering prenatal depression and it was completely dismissed by her midwives. There was the case in the UK of the woman who was failing at breastfeeding, showed signs of PPD, and rather than giving her mental help, they only pushed her to breastfeed- ending in her suicide. Pregnant transgender people are both more at risk for having problems emotionally during pregnancy and also have a harder time finding help that actually supports them.

    Official screening might not even be necessary if pregnant peoples’ doctors would be more aware of it and paid attention to signs of pre-natal depression as well as the risks of PPD or post-partum psychosis. The number of people who sought help and were turned away is horrific. I’m not saying no screening, of course.

    Also- as someone with depression, I can understand some hesitance to the screening, especially given how awful CPS can be. I didn’t have PPD, I’m functional without medication and have negative reactions to anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication, but I would come up as at risk for it and if hospitals are being pushed to prevent this sort of thing- I may have been forced on medication that would do more harm than good, or risk being labeled an unfit parent if I refused. This is the biggest concern I would have.

    The push to get hospitals to increase breastfeeding rates is doing very real harm and forces hospitals to push breastfeeding even at the expense of both parents’ and infants’ health. Rather than making it a relaxing, enjoyable bonding event- it can often become a highly stressful ordeal. Because nothing gets a baby in the mood for an easy nursing session like stressed out, possibly sobbing, parents and being manhandled by strangers! I do NOT want to see the same thing happen to mental health- and if you think it can’t, you are mistaken.

    • Hi, thanks for stopping by, reading my post about the petition and leaving a comment. Trying to be objective as much as possible, while keeping in mind my own PPD experience and those of others I know and have heard about, I’m thinking that spreading the message via this petition can at least serve to increase the current level of awareness about PMDs. We would need 100K signatures to simply guarantee an acknowledgment from the White House. But having the dialogue going in as many circles as possible, to have people talking and sharing information about PMDs will help us more than if we didn’t do any of this. We need to banish stigma.

      If I were to start a petition right now myself, I would petition for a fed mandate or ACOG mandate in partnership with APA to require a major overhaul of the maternal health system to require all OB/GYNs to have a minimum knowledge of PMDs–including how to diagnose, treat and refer to a mental health practitioner and PPD support services/groups–and for each OB practice to have an extensive referral network at their fingertips. This is pretty major and would take years to accomplish unless we can get some kind of mandate passed, like, NOW!

      And in terms of the whole breastfeeding is best situation we’ve got going on….that needs to change too. So an ACOG/APA/AAP partnership is required. We need the AAP to step in and tell the crazy lactivists to cease and desist, and the trend to have hospitals and lactation consultants to push BFing in a way that is harmful to mothers stop!

  2. I signed the petition and shared it on my page. I suffered from PPD and ended up losing custody of my daughter. It is sad that there is such a stigma attached that a lot of mothers are afraid to ask for help or get help out of fear for losing their children. I have my daughter back because I got the help and medication I needed and it actually was a blessing in disguise. I have been thinking about going back to college but was not sure what I wanted to do. After seeing the story about the mom that drove her mini van into the ocean it brought back so many feelings and seeing the ignorance and lack of empathy for people like us I have decided I want to dedicate my life to help other women with this illness. I am signing up for college with a degree in social work. If there is anything I can do to help further the message and to help you please let me know.

    • Hi Heather, Thank you so much for reading the post, signing the petition, and sharing about it with others! Thank you for sharing a bit about your experience, and very glad that things worked out okay for you and your daughter! Mothers suffering from perinatal mood disorders should not have to be blindsided. During our pregnancy and postpartum period, we should already know what the various PMDs are and learn preventive measures and getting enough help after baby’s birth is key to our own mental wellbeing–regardless of what society has to say about “Oh, being a mother should come naturally and you should be able to handle childcare and breastfeeding with ease.”

      It’s awesome that you want to go to school and get a degree in social work. I know so many moms who took the same path as you (experienced firsthand and then dedicated their lives to help other women with PMDs). For training, a couple awesome organizations to consider taking training with are Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net) and The Postpartum Stress Center (www.postpartumstress.com).

      If you could, please do keep me posted on your progress, and stay in touch!

  3. I am signing the petition.i think this would be a great idea.i had my daughter 3 years ago and after she was born I suffered from ppd.i had it to where I was to over protective of her but I was not taking care of myself at all.i was always so worried something would happen to her so I watched over her day and night.and held her all the time never putting her down.i went to try to get help and they always just sent me home and said I was fine.finally it got really bad and they finally took me and treated me.but if they can tell early and get mothers. Proper treatment before it gets really bad that would be fantastic!! I also shared this to my Facebook.i hope u get all the signatures you need!

    • Hi Jessica, Thanks for reading the post, signing the petition, and encouraging others to sign as well! The very least that we hope to accomplish with this petition is to raise awareness and reduce stigma! Of course, if we can get more OB/GYN’s to utilize one of the few screening tools that already exist, that would be ideal!

  4. People with mental health disorders are suffering as much as a person with a life or dead experience. Even though I have read articles in how this conditions should be treated like any other health conditions the reality if far from the truth. If I could reach out and support a cause that is marked by dread, fear, sadness, and pain. If someone just took the time and realized that we are all the same, but some of us can’t predict when our life will spiral out of control. We want to love, protect our children, and enjoy life as much as healthy person does. My heart goes out for the mother, and the children. I really wish there was more real research and help for the ones that suffer from mental conditions. Most of all acceptance.

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