15%-21% of Moms Suffer from a Perinatal Mood Disorder

For the longest time they were saying between 1 out of 8 women suffer from a perinatal (before, during or after childbirth) mood disorder.  Then, they said between 1 out of 7.  And more recently, literature indicates it’s now approximately 15%-21%, which is anywhere between 1 out of 5 and 1 out of 6, with 21% experiencing a postpartum mood disorder.

If you are suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, you can see from these numbers and in many places online–from a multitude of Facebook support pages, blogs and on Twitter–and in newspapers that you are not alone.  For example, in today’s Upworthy, my friend Heidi Koss shares her experience after the birth of her daughters.  She is a PPD survivor and now helps other moms suffering from perinatal mood disorders.  Her story was also mentioned in an NPR article a week ago today.

You need to know when you need to get help from a doctor and/or therapist.  Get it early.  Know the facts.  Know the difference between postpartum blues and postpartum depression (PPD).  Know the difference between PPD, postpartum anxietypostpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis.  Click here for helpful information that can help you.

You need help for you.
You need help for your baby(ies).
You need help for your family as a whole, including your significant other.

I just found out tonight about the fate of Carol Coronado about whom I blogged in May 2014.  She suffered from postpartum psychosis (not PPD as some newspapers allude to), didn’t get the right help and was just sentenced to life in jail.  Carol, her babies, and her husband were failed by the system.  The same system that failed to ensure she got help is punishing her for their failure.  Sound fair to you?  No!  Her case sounds similar to Andrea Yates case nearly 15 years ago.  I pray for Carol and her family.  She has suffered enough and does not need to spend the rest of her life in jail.  I saw a Facebook comment about Carol that triggered me to write this post.  The coldness and lack of understanding are a reflection of just how close-minded people can be.  It amazes me, really.  It’s really hard to beat down stigma when you have such barriers in the way.  But don’t let any of that deter you from getting help.  YOU are important.  Forget these clueless people.  Get the help you need.  Don’t delay!

Whenever you read about these stories in the news, please remember the facts.  Get information from the right resources (links above would be great place to start).  And don’t let stigma and ignorance steer you away from understanding and compassion.  Don’t let stigma, ignorance, and the close-mindedness of people (those who choose not to understand and would rather continue their misogynistic, super hokey, religious extremist mindset in which women are second class citizens) steer you away from getting the help you need to be well again!  Stay strong!  There is help out there!  Reach out to me.  Reach out to the Postpartum Support International Facebook page (closed group) for support.

History in the Making for Maternal Mental Health Advocates

I’ve been super busy at work these days, sometimes having to work at night, which is why I haven’t blogged much lately. But I couldn’t let today go by without mentioning the announcement today about a major step in the right direction….finally!  First thing this morning, I received a text from a friend to check out an article in the NY Times about postpartum depression (PPD), followed immediately by an email from my husband with a link to the same article.

Mental health advocates are excited not just about the news that splashed the headlines of today’s New York Times and NPR about the importance of screening adults for depression.  It’s the acknowledgment–finally–that new and pregnant moms need screening because catching and treating PPD early is crucial to the wellbeing of both the mother and the baby, and to the family unit as a whole.  I’ve blogged in the past about how screening and seeing someone experienced in treating PPD could have prevented my painful experience.  Having the screening recommendation come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is particularly meaningful, as its recommendations have far-reaching impact on things like healthcare (i.e., American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians) and health insurance in this country.  In fact, its recommendations appear in the current issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

This is a major milestone for maternal mental health advocates in this country.  And it’s about freaking time!  I attribute this milestone to the persistence, hard work, dedication and passion of many, many amazing people either independently acting or as part of organizations formed–too many to list here but foremost on the list is Postpartum Support International (of which I’ve been a member since 2006)–to spread awareness about an all too common condition suffered by mothers that even today people are not aware occurs in 1 out of 7 moms.  Seeing my friends’ names in these articles–Heidi Koss, a survivor/advocate/counselor and Wendy Davis, Executive Director of Postpartum Support International–mentioned makes them all the more meaningful to me.  They are passionate about what they do because they don’t want mothers and their families suffering unnecessarily.

You would think something like screening, which I’ve blogged about numerously in the past, would be mandated by all healthcare professionals who come in contact with expectant/new moms.  In one of my very first blog posts from back in June 2009, I included my suggestions for what screening would entail. Unfortunately, screening has not been embraced because, after all, where there is a positive, there is always a negative.  In this case, there are several negatives, with the biggest being none other than STIGMA, one of the 2 biggest barriers to progress for the battle against PPD.

Stigma–and the ignorance associated with it– comes from resistance to change and attitudes about what screening would mean (“Oh, once a mom is screened positively for PPD, then she will automatically be medicated”).  That, by the way, is totally false.  No one is deliberately trying to medicate every mother and give more business to the pharmaceutical companies.  Again, I have blogged plenty about this in the past, but medication is just one way to treat a perinatal mood disorder and in many cases critical to helping restore the neurochemical imbalance that childbirth has brought about.  Without medication, I might not have survived my PPD.  In most cases, it’s a combination of medication and therapy (like CBT) that is most effective.  In some, less serious cases of PPD, therapy or peer-to-peer support (with a PPD support group led by a survivor) and/or an alternative treatment like meditation or acupuncture is sufficient.

Speaking of which, there is another major barrier, which is what happens once an expectant or new mom screens positively for a perinatal mood disorder….can we find them immediate help?  Although there are more resources now than there were back when I suffered from PPD, we still have a very long way to go.  There is definitely a need for more help among the healthcare, mental healthcare, and peer-to-peer support communities who are experienced in treating perinatal mood disorders.  You’ll all too often hear that there is a long wait to see a psychiatrist (an MD who has the ability to prescribe meds), once you’ve found one that is near you that has experience treating perinatal mood disorders.  Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough mental healthcare practitioners who are experienced in treating perinatal mood disorders.  There aren’t enough mental healthcare practitioners, period.  And among general practitioners, not enough are experienced enough or even have adequate bedside manner to know how to treat/behave toward a mother struggling with a perinatal mood disorder.  I know, because I had seen one of those doctors, and it was a horrible, horrible experience for me.

These are the problems that we need to overcome if we want to truly be able to prevent any more mothers from falling through the cracks.  There are many steps to get where we need to be, but we have attained an important step in the right direction with the recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force!

Know Science No Stigma: Antidepressants During Pregnancy and Risk of Autism

Coming out of a blogging break to step onto my soapbox for one of my favorite reasons….to point out inaccurate information being published, in this case by JAMA Pediatrics in its report titled “Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and the Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children.”  Now, mind you, JAMA is a publication on which pediatricians from all over the world depend for the latest research.

Over the past few days, several responses were published, including ones from Postpartum Support International (PSI), Slate, and Huffington Post.

The sub-title or header to the PSI article says “Less Fear, More Science.”  That’s what EVERYONE needs to focus more on.  It’s one of my main mantras.  In fact, one of my most popular Pinterest pins (pinned 183 times as of today) says KNOW SCIENCE. NO STIGMA.  Four words with significant meaning.  It’s posted on the Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation website.

www.bbrfoundation.org

JAMA needs to acknowledge this and pull the study, and if they can’t pull it, then they need to read the response from PSI, discuss it with other subject matter experts and decide how to handle it properly so the pediatricians all over the world can know the truth.  So that pediatricians don’t feed the flames of ignorance and fear among the public unnecessarily!

What Hayden and Drew and These 8 Other Celebrity Moms Have in Common

I have to admit, I am a bit behind on blogging about current events that by now are no longer current in the literal sense, but will always be an important topic that should always discussed in as many media as possible–in person via conversations and in both online and print format.  Postpartum depression (PPD), or actually mental health, is a topic that must stay in mainstream news.  Experiences must be shared regularly everywhere if we want to clear away the stigma and misconceptions about PPD.

In the past few weeks, most if not all of us who keep abreast of news have heard about Hayden Panetierre’s struggle with PPD.  Click here for a video of her interview on “Live with Kelly and Michael” and here for a recording of a discussion about PPD on On Point with Tom Ashbrook that includes Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody (Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Mood Disorders), Aimee Danielson (Director of the Women’s Mental Health Program in the Department of Psychiatry at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital), and Dr. Deborah Da Costa (Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada).  Realizing her condition was something that she needed professional help for, she checked herself into a facility to help with her recovery.

Ever since her role in Heroes, I have admired her.  I admired her even more when I learned she’s a huge marine wildlife activist and very much involved with Sea Shepherd.  I am passionate about marine wildlife and support Sea Shepherd.  And I admire her even more now that I know she’s struggled with PPD and realizes the urgency of spreading awareness and the great deal of stigma that is associated with PPD.

Coincidentally, right around the same time, Drew Barrymore opened up about her battle with PPD.

And then a few other articles popped up via Hollywood Reporter and US Magazine about other celebrity PPD survivors, like Brooke Shields, Marie Osmond, Bryce Dallas Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow–all of whom I’ve blogged previously about–plus Courteney Cox, Vanessa Lachey, Amanda Peet and Alanis Morissette.

I am truly grateful for these celebrity moms sharing with the public the fact that they struggled with a postpartum mood disorder (PMD).  By sharing their struggles it further shows that new mothers of all financial and social situations may experience a PMD.  One out of eight (or approximately 15-20%) of new mothers succumb to PPD.  PPD is experienced by women of all cultures, ethnicities, social statuses, and religions.  It’s primarily thanks to celebrities speaking up about their experiences that postpartum depression stories reach people far and wide.  It’s extremely challenging for the average mother’s story (like mine or any of the other mothers chosen for the A Plus article I blogged about last night) to get any attention, which is why–and I must reiterate from yesterday–I am so grateful that A Plus chose my story to share with its readership.

Honored to Tell My PPD Story Via A Plus

Thank you, Ashton Kutscher’s A Plus (A+), for selecting me to be one of the moms for your postpartum depression piece titled “What is Postpartum Depression? 5 Moms Tell Us About the Darkest Time in Their Lives” last Thursday.  My story was shared with A+ readers, along with the stories of Amber Koter Puline, Lauren Hale, Alexandra Rosas, and Kimberly Morand.  I would’ve blogged about this earlier if I wasn’t so darn busy, with one day blending into the next and blending into the next….

Truthfully, I hadn’t heard about A+ previously, and I was quite surprised to hear that the founder is none other than Ashton Kutscher!  There are many who still haven’t heard of A+ and I have still yet to see a single A+ article pop up in my newsfeed shared by others in my Facebook circle.  A+ gave me the opportunity to share my story to reach a broader audience, so I am going to give a little plug (even though I don’t really think Ashton and his team need this).

After reading the “About Us” section on the A+ site, I’m feeling more honored than ever. I can see why they decided to share our PPD stories.  It’s for the same reason why the 5 of us (and many others) have been trying for many years (Amber & Lauren since 2007 and me from 2009) to spread awareness and get our message out to other mothers.

We strive to deliver positive journalism to readers, with the intention of making a meaningful difference in the world by highlighting our common humanity, promoting personal growth, and inspiring social change.

Sounds a bit like Huffington Post, don’t it?  Well, kinda sorta.  The specific mission of the stories published via A+ is to “make readers feel better about themselves or the world around them after they’ve read it” and inspire readers to take positive action and to be better people by sharing positive/uplifting stories, encouraging ways for people to improve their personal situations, increasing a sense of community, empathy, and the interconnections that exist between themselves and others regardless of geography.

Our stories encourage readers to see themselves in others and reveal their secret selves. Our stories highlight moments of courage, humiliation, anger, folly, but the ones that hit home are the ones that cause readers to feel that they are not alone with their imperfect selves. We do not make fun or put others down; we find ourselves in them!

I’ve blogged many a time about the over-eagerness of media to capitalize on “click bait” for the sole purpose of generating the greatest number of views possible by coming up with a juicy or attention-getting headline.  Very rarely are those click bait articles about good news.  More often than not, those stories incite negative responses from people, whether it be anger, sadness, outrage and/or the desire for retribution and wishing ill will upon others (think trolls).  Those types of articles feed hateful thinking and behavior and keep the vicious cycle going round and round with no end in sight.  The outcome is greater disappointment in others and the world we live in.  Basically, all of the opposite effects from the mission of A+ noted above.

Upworthy is a media site that tries to inspire positive thinking by sharing positive/uplifting stories. Let’s hope that the A+ movement will continue to differentiate itself from the Upworthy’s and Huffington Posts of the world, and truly succeed at making a difference.  Because, you know what?  We truly need positive change.  And a lot of it!

Let’s Be Real When It Comes to Women Supporting Women

I wasn’t going to post until after the AFSP Out of the Darkness walk, but I wanted to just quickly say a few words on a topic near and dear to my heart:  Mommy wars and breastfeeding zealots.

Let me start off by saying this:

  • Women supporting women ≠ women verbally attacking other women for choosing how they would like to raise their children, including how to feed them
  • Women supporting women = proactively doing something to promote the wellbeing of other women through S-U-P-P-O-R-T (e.g., help with baby, help around the house, providing social/emotional support in person, by phone or online, doula services, lactation support)

I find it highly ironic that women who purport to have women and their babies’ interests at heart  via radical views on breastfeeding and a fetus’ right to life, while also being the first to attack other women for common-sense notions that are moderate in nature and don’t align with theirs.  They will lunge at you (imagine a monster with glowing red eyes, sharp teeth and claws) whenever they–and I have to laugh about this–stumble across a blog like mine and think that I don’t have other women and babies’ interests at heart and call my blog a disservice to others and the mere fact that my blog is recognized by others in the mental health and women’s health communities as atrocious.

Unlike these fanatical individuals, I’m moderate.  I’m right down the middle.  I’m objective.  I’m logical. I’m empathic. I’m considerate. I look at the COMPLETE picture.  I have no extreme, one-sided, I-don’t-care-about-other-people’s-circumstances-I-only-care-about-my-own, narrow-minded, holier-than-thou, views.  Bottom line, I have no time for bullshit like this.

I GET that breastfeeding is good.  Did I ever say on my blog that it wasn’t?  If you find any indication on my blog that I’m anti-breastfeeding, then I welcome you to please show me.  I totally welcome you to try.

I will also be right down the middle when it comes to abortions.  There is never one right answer for the reasons people need to have abortions.  And I absolutely abhor it when I see people who have no clue about what others are going through making their holier-than-thou claims that anyone who has one–whether it be to save their own lives or consequences of rape/incest–is automatically committing a sin.  Again, who are you to judge this?  Who made you judge and jury?  Everyone has beliefs, but let your beliefs guide you in your OWN life, not OTHER PEOPLE’S lives.  Other people’s lives and how they choose to live them from the circumstances with which they are faced (remember that sometimes things get really ugly for people out of no fault of theirs) is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

There are WAY TOO MANY people who have nothing better to do than judge other people and try to take pot shots at them for the oddest of reasons.  WAY TOO MANY.  Like the extremely conservative, far right, narrow-minded,  religiously fanatical to the point of obsession ways of thinking trolls that pop out from under their figurative bridge anytime there is anything like breastfeeding or abortions in the headlines.

So when I run into women who claim to support other women that make claims like “Oh, I support all moms who breastfeed and everyone else be damned” (and I don’t care what their situation is, I just know that I’m right and they’re wrong), I WANT TO GAG. And I very much wish I could press a “Make that troll disappear” button to make them go away.

Women supporting other women does not mean you go and attack others simply for not thinking, behaving and having the same exact circumstances as you.  Because guess what?  Each person is a unique individual with genes and life experiences that make them who they are.  We do not live in a Stepford Wives world.  Wake the f$ck up.

#gotnotimefordatshit
#trollbegone
#crawlbackunderbridgeyoupoppedoutfrom
#notaStepfordWivesworld

Let’s Hold Failure of the System Accountable for Tragedies Involving Infanticide

 *** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events***

I stumbled across this headline on my Twitter feed tonight:  “Three years for Edinburgh mum who killed her baby.”   Wasn’t planning on blogging, but when I clicked on the link to read the article, I was so infuriated that it has motivated me to blog.  Here’s yet another tragic loss from system failure and continued societal blindness to the realities of perinatal mood disorders.

I’ve blogged about this previously…that it seems way too common and easy for people to disassociate the baby from the mother.  That a tragedy like this–a mother named Erin Sutherland who suffered from severe postnatal depression (PND) who smothered her baby–occurred should be viewed from a BIG PICTURE perspective as another example of the system failing a mother AND her baby.  Not just the baby, but the mother as well.  Not just the mother, but the baby as well.

The father of the baby, estranged from Erin Sutherland, and his family felt it was unfortunate that the focus seems to have shifted from the real tragedy at hand….the loss of an innocent baby.  No one can/will contest this, but what people continuously forget is that, had the system NOT failed Erin, the baby would be alive because Erin would have received the treatment she desperately needed.  True, I don’t know the full story here, but the mere words coming out of the prosecutor Iain McSporran’s mouth: “generally speaking six months is a point beyond which PND will no longer be considered a factor” is RIDICULOUS.  Spouting such damning untruths is utterly shameful on his part. Had he bothered to get educated about perinatal mood disorders, those words would not have slipped out of his mouth a la angry let’s-lynch-the-mother-she’s-always-guilty-no-matter-what syndrome.  Mr. McSporran, if you had bothered to become educated about perinatal mood disorders, you would know that it is possible for severe PND to be possible up to the end of the 2nd year or whenever a mother decides to wean her baby.

Why would a mother be turned down for help because ludicrous “rules” state that after six months her condition was no longer deemed to be a “problem factor” for new mothers?  Why are such archaic rules still in existence?  They must be updated with scientific facts!   I thought Edinburgh is supposed to be more up-to-speed on perinatal mood disorders than we are in the states, what with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) originating from none other than….you guessed it, Edinburgh.  But I guess not!

How could anyone refuse treatment for a mother who is clearly suffering from PND and seeking help for it?!  Especially when the mother had previously received hospital treatment following the birth of an older daughter after being diagnosed with PND and becoming so ill that she needed in-patient care when her child was EIGHT months old! Last I looked EIGHT is more than SIX!!!

The system that created such a nonsensical “rule” is culpable for little Chloe’s death.  It left Erin with no treatment and sealed her and Chloe’s fate.  So terrible that I want to smack some sense into these ignorant lawmakers.  Get with the program! Get educated, for crying out loud!  This patriarchal system catering to old fashioned beliefs based on misogynistic, archaic thinking MUST GO NOW!

In a recent post that also involved another tragedy like this, I posted:

Women around the world continue to be viewed as baby incubators and milk machines, and as such, their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing do not matter in the grand scheme of things.  Their needs as new mothers don’t matter.  BUT THEY DO MATTER.

Mothers are more than incubators.  They are living, breathing, humans just like men are.  Just like babies are.  Heck, people seem to be very quick to forget one basic truth:  Without women, you can’t have babies.  Hellllooooo!  I see all the time hateful comments from the extreme right (here in this country) from women, of all things, picking on other women because they were raised brainwashed into believing misogynistic things that do nothing but damn themselves.  Well, I wish women would unbrainwash themselves.  Use their common sense, not have their religious zealotry make them blinder than bats.  It might make a huge difference once women sided with women, don’t you think?