World Maternal Mental Health Day: May 2, 2018

With just a few minutes left to World Maternal Mental Health Day, I wanted to do check one more thing off my TO DO list: Taking a picture with The Blue Dot Project sign with a very important message on it to do my part in spreading awareness about the statistics (1 in 7 new moms), common symptoms, who to call for support/where to find resources & info (Postpartum Support International or PSI), a positive message (the PSI mantra: You’re not alone, this is not your fault, you will get better with the right treatment), and the hashtag #RocktheBlueDot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier in the week, I did the whole Twibbon thing with the #WorldMMHDay on social media, I have been sharing the daily Facebook posts of The Blue Dot Project on both my personal and my author page, and I figured I would wrap up today with this blog post.

With May as Maternal Mental Health Month, keep your eyes open for all sorts of social media campaigns, fundraisers, news articles, and blog posts.  The wealth of information is satisfying to see, as it is 100 times–to say the very least–more than what I had when I found myself stuck all alone and scared on the very difficult postpartum depression (PPD) path I found myself forced to take over 13 years ago!   We need to keep the public awareness going to continue to chip away at the stigma and ignorance that still prevent moms suffering from PPD (and their loved ones) from knowing what to look out for, knowing how to get help, having all medical/mental healthcare professionals that work with moms knowing how to detect/diagnose/refer moms who need help.

Please, please, please do your part to spread awareness.

Click here to find out how you can take your very own #RocktheBlueDot picture with your own message, and share it with the ladies over at The Blue Dot Project so they can share it on their end as well.

Share Postpartum Support International, The Blue Dot Project, and posts by other maternal mental health organizations across the globe.

Join the movement!

 

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Recent PPD Successes and Failures in the Media

I went from blogging once in two months to 8 times so far this month!  With Maternal Mental Health Month a little less than a week away, a lot of fundraising, training and public awareness events are being prepped to happen throughout May.  Another reason to love this time of year….hello spring!

Okay, so the title of my post is “Recent PPD Successes and Failures in the Media.”  There were 2 things in the media that caught my attention on my Facebook feed today that motivated me to blog once again. One is a success and one is a failure.  If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you would know that one of my favorite things to blog about are successful and failed attempts at depicting new mothers suffering from a mood disorder in the media, like my recent post about “Black-ish.”

Let’s start with the SUCCESS……
On this morning’s Megyn Kelly TODAY a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) survivor, Ashley Abeles, shared her experience.  The segment also included brief appearances by Dr. Catherine Birndorf and Paige Bellembaum who are the Medical Director and Program Director, respectively, of The Motherhood Center of New York. The Motherhood Center provides support services for new/expectant moms and treatment for PMADs. I met these ladies from the Motherhood Center at previous Postpartum Support International conferences.  If you missed the show, you can watch it here.  We need more moms sharing their PMAD experiences on shows like this!  Experiences kind of like my own that, as her husband explains, isn’t “headline-grabbing” material involving the tragic death of the mother and/or baby.  Because guess what, the vast majority of PMADs experienced by new mothers are NOT headline-grabbing material.  They’re mothers suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, weight loss and/or intrusive/obsessive thoughts who need medication and/or therapy to recover.  Yes, severe postpartum depression (PPD) can cause a mother to feel so depressed that she just wants to disappear or her baby would be better off without her since she can’t feel joyous like a new mother should, but postpartum psychosis is too-often confused with and lumped under PPD (as a catch-all term) by both the general public and doctors alike.  Yes, doctors!  Also, PPD is not the same as the baby blues and even today, doctors still mix up the two!  We’ve come a long way since I had PPD when it comes to information in the news, in publications, on the Internet and in social media.  But we still have a LONG way to go.

And here’s the FAILURE……
The movie “Tully” starring Charlize Theron.  A Motherly post by Diana Spalding titled “We’ve seen Tully– and we’ve got some real concerns” it seems yet another movie director/producer has failed to do their homework about PPD before coming up with the screenplay and releasing it.  What every movie director/producer or TV show director/producer needs to do before even contemplating a movie or TV show about PPD is consult with Postpartum Support International.  This organization is the leading authority on maternal mental health matters and should ALWAYS be consulted to ensure the right information is incorporated into the movie/show plot.  “Tully” attributes the bizarre experiences of Tully (i.e., hallucinations she has of Marlo, frantic baking and cleaning late into the night, impulsive behavior that leads to her car crash, suicidal ideation) to PPD.  However, her behavior is actually attributable to postpartum psychosis, hence this movie spreads misinformation about what PPD really is.  Her talk of suicide is brushed off by her husband, which I can see happening in the real world when loved ones fail to “get it” and ignore the mother’s serious need for help.  While this is a movie and movies don’t necessarily have to educate–after all, this is not a documentary–it should at least get terms right (postpartum psychosis, NOT PPD!)  and it should try to mention at some point that yes, the new mother who’s obviously not well and diagnosed, albeit incorrectly, with PPD needs help!  Maybe put some kind of disclaimer at the beginning or end of the movie like you sometimes see at the beginning or end of a TV show.  Something along the lines of:

“Approximately one out of seven new mothers suffers from a postpartum mood disorder.  If you are a new mother that is experiencing any of the following symptoms: insomnia, crying/sadness for more than 2 weeks, lack of appetite, sudden weight loss, rage, hopelessness, lack of interest in the baby, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, thoughts of harming the baby or yourself, please know that you are not alone, what you are experiencing is not your fault, and you will recover if you get the right treatment.  Contact Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773 or visit http://www.postpartum.net

Free Webinar: Bringing Light to Postpartum Depression and PMAD

ATTENTION:
OB/GYNs and their staff, general/family practitioners, therapists, social workers – basically, everyone who would ever treat a new mother. Also, new/expectant mothers and their loved ones!

Once again, I’m piggybacking off of my last 2 posts about the Postpartum Resource Center of New York by sharing this great opportunity I learned from this post I just spotted on my Facebook feed for all who care for / about new mothers and their postpartum well being to learn about PMADs, treatments, resources, and how loved ones can help.

PMADs are experienced by 1 in 5 mothers.  What better way to spread awareness than this FREE webinar!  We need more of these opportunities to combat stigma and ensure as many people are educated as possible, as there are still way too many people whose job it is to care for mothers that don’t accurately identify PMADs and get them the help they need.  With more awareness, we will chip away at stigma.  We will ensure fewer mothers suffer alone and in silence.  We will ensure fewer mothers and children suffer the consequences of undiagnosed/untreated PMADs.

When:  Wednesday, May 2, 2018 from 8:00pm – 9:00 pm
Who:  Sonia Murdock (Exec. Director of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York) and Bridget Croteau (St. Joseph’s College NY alumna; Mrs. Suffolk County America 2017-18)
Cost:  It’s absolutely free, and open to the public!
Registration:  Click here to sign up. If you can’t make it to the live session, no problem!  You can access a recording, provided you register.
For more info:  Contact Taryn Kutujian at tkutujian@sjcny.edu

Please spread the word about this!  Share WIDELY on social media!

 

Traumatic Childbirth: The Ever-Widening Ripple Effect

Piggybacking off of my last blog post “Mother May I?” – An Important Documentary About Childbirth Trauma 2 days ago, I wanted to make folks aware about a childbirth-trauma-related event that I spotted on my Facebook feed today.

LMR Visioning Educational Series 2017

Sonia Murdoch, Jane Honikman, and me

The Lisa Mary Reilly Visioning Educational Series hosts an annual event in collaboration with the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.  Last year, I attended the event that took place in Manhattan and featured Jane Honikman, founder of Postpartum Support International.

This year’s event will be co-hosted by The Rochester Postpartum Wellness Coalition and will take place on Thursday, May 3, 2018, from 11:00 am-2:00 pm, at the Rochester Academy of Medicine, Rochester, NY.  The guest speaker of this event will be Cheryl Tatano Beck, DNSc, CNM, FAAN. She a Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing.  Dr. Beck serves on the editorial boards of 4 journals and has published over 150 scientific articles as well as 4 books.  The title of her presentation is Traumatic Childbirth: The Ever Widening Ripple Effect.   Click here to find out more about the event and to buy tickets, which are $50 each and includes lunch.

My wish is for every medical professional that treats mothers–from OB/GYN doctors and their staff to maternity ward staff, emergency room staff, midwives, doulas, and family doctors/general practitioners, as well as mental healthcare practitioners–were required to take this kind of training regardless of where they are located. This means this kind of training should be replicated and hosted in every major city in every state.  Until then, we are going to continue to have medical/mental healthcare professionals fail to realize the connection between traumatic childbirth and postpartum mood disorders.

We need to emphasize the importance of care for mothers just as much as people emphasize the importance of care for babies.  As I’ve said before, it just seems so obvious that, once a mother gives birth to a baby, all the attention goes to the baby and its care and the mother falls by the wayside.  Hello, she just carried a child for 9 months and had to give birth! Her body goes through extreme physical changes, including hormonal upheaval.   Any complications that occur during childbirth can increase the chance of a postpartum mood disorder to occur.  The ONLY view that matters on how a childbirth went should be is the new mother’s view on her childbirth experience.  If she feels like it was a God-awful experience, we need to respect, acknowledge and try to understand her feelings.  We should never pooh pooh her experience.  We should never assume her feelings are what you think they ought to be.  A new mother’s experience is her experience, period.

Let’s care more about how a mother views her childbirth experiences.
Let’s care about the kind of care she receives during childbirth.
Let’s care about how she envisions her childbirth to go.
Let’s care about how she feels about breastfeeding.
Let’s care about how anxious she feels about taking care of the baby.
Let’s care about her enough that when she seems to not be herself, we get her the help she needs.
Let’s care enough to realize that about 20% of new mothers experience a postpartum mood disorder that usually starts within the first 4-6 weeks postpartum but can happen up to a year and may be triggered by weaning.
Let’s care about her feelings, bottom line.

 

 

 

Playing Monopoly with God – New York City Performances!

I am super excited to share the news that “Playing Monopoly With God” is coming to New York City! (Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it due to prior commitments).

“Playing Monopoly With God” is an amazing, one-woman play.  Melissa Bangs is the talented and passionate actress behind this play.

Her mission is to share her experience and in so doing, spread awareness on what it’s like to be one of the 20% of new mothers who suffer from postpartum mood disorders and encourage mothers to share their experiences.

Melissa has been touring for 4 years putting on 37 shows—including sold-out shows in Seattle and Los Angeles– reaching nearly 5000 people

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Postpartum Support International presents:

Playing Monopoly with God & Other True Stories
Hilarious. Heart-wrenching. Human. 
A true tale of childbirth, madness and the journey home.
LIVE. NONFICTION. STORYTELLING. PERFORMANCE.
 
TICKETS ON SALE NOW!!! MAY 17th – 20th

Evening
 Performances – 6PM Doors – 7PM Performance
THE RATTLESTICK THEATRE @ 224 Waverly Place, New York, New York
Thursday, May 17th – Live Performance followed by a PSI Gala Event at Bobo NYC ($175)
Friday, May 18th – Live Performance w Wine, Cheese and Panel Discussion ($75)
Saturday, May 19th – Live Performance (also to be webcast) ($45 in-person)
and a Mimosa Matinee…
Sunday, May 20th – 1PM Doors/2PM Show ($45)
 
In September 2012, at 40 years old, Melissa Bangs gave birth to her beautiful daughter Adelaide.  A month later, dramatically hormone depleted and sleep deprived, Melissa is admitted to the Providence Psychiatric Facilities in a complete manic state.  After nearly a month, she is sent home with a bipolar diagnosis and on lithium.  What comes next is an extraordinary journey.
 
On her path back to wholeness, one of the things Bangs did was read her entire 100 plus page hospital record.  Somewhere, around page 87, there is a nurse’s note that looks as if it were scribbled late at night after a long shift.  It reads, “Patient says she will do comedy on this experience.”  Upon reading this, Bangs laughed out loud.  
 
The psych team couldn’t have possibly known that Bangs has been a storyteller her entire life and did comedy for a stint, as a student, at the Upright Citizens’ Brigade in New York City.  They couldn’t have known that transforming details from the most painful experience of her life into a room full of laughter would prove healing for so many.
 

Join Postpartum Support International for an evening of storytelling full of bewilderment, chaos and hilarity.  Bangs has a knack for telling true stories that cut to the bone of our shared, vulnerable human condition. Her true gift, however, comes in the moments in which she’s able to strip away the shame or agony of an experience and transform the room into an uproar of laughter.

Postpartum Depression Doesn’t Look the Same Across the Board

I always try to keep up with the multitude of articles that feature Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center and author of numerous books on perinatal mood disorders.  This particular article from October 4, 2017, titled “Postpartum Depression May Look More Like Anxiety Than Sadness” that appeared on Well and Good, by Annaliese Griffin,  caught my attention.  It caught my attention because it’s because when my doctor told me 13 years ago that I had postpartum depression (PPD), I didn’t believe him.  I thought “How could I be depressed if I’m not even sad?”  He explained that depression could manifest as anxiety, but did I understand that at the time?  Nope. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a journey to discovering what PPD really was….that it’s a catch-all term that encompasses all postpartum mood disorders, which includes postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis.  That my PPD caused insomnia, weight loss, loss of appetite, and being a shell of a person unable to enjoy anything, and unable to pretty much do anything.  I was so concerned about my baby’s cradle cap and eczema and her bowel movement/feeding schedules that, by the time her colic came and went at my 6th week postpartum, PPD set in and I had no idea what was happening to me.

This article is very important because the number of women suffering from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) is pretty common.  And I should know because of the number of hits I get on my blog for the symptoms that I experienced.  So, if it’s been over 3-4 weeks since you had your baby and if you are feeling anxious, unable to sleep even when the baby sleeps and unable to function and enjoy things you’re normally able to enjoy (like listening to music), having moments of rage, having panic attacks, and/or having obsessive and even scary thoughts, please go the Postpartum Support International (PSI) website to seek help near you.  You are not alone, there is nothing to feel ashamed of, and you will get better with the right help.  Do not be afraid to ask for and accept help.

Jessica Porten’s story went viral a week ago because she admitted to the nurse at her OB/GYN office that she was experiencing feelings of anger, and that admission was unfortunately not handled correctly.  This, my friends, is why I have been blogging for the past nearly 9 years.  My mission is to help spread awareness and in so doing dissipate the stubborn stigma that refuses to go away because there is still so much ignorance about PPD.  My mission is to also help mothers as much as I can to get the help they need.  Anger/rage is another way that PPD can manifest for some mothers.  Everyone’s PPD experience is unique to that person because we are all complex people that– when emotions, temperaments, hormones, heredity, childbirth experience, and history come together–symptoms manifest differently from one person to the next.  Symptoms can range from feelings of sadness to anxiety, anger and even rage to insomnia, sleeping too much, lack of appetite, eating too much, obsessive/intrusive thoughts, etc.  As such, treatment of these moms will vary from one mother to the next.  Some moms need medication. Some moms need therapy.  Some moms need a combination of medication and therapy.  The duration of treatment will vary as well.  But there is one thing in common among all mothers suffering from PPD:  they need help.  They don’t need to be treated the way Jessica Porten was treated.  They don’t need to be treated like I was treated 13 years ago.

Erica Chidi Cohen, a doula and co-founder and CEO of  Loom in Los Angeles attributes postpartum anxiety to first-time mothers feeling uncertain and anxious about going through childbirth and taking care of a baby for the first time. It is more common than you think for first-time mother to feel anxious but when the anxiety morphs beyond worry to insomnia, lack of appetite, etc. is when medical attention is needed.  A traumatic childbirth experience increases the chances for a new mother to experience PPD.

Click here to visit Kleiman’s The Postpartum Pact. It is an important postpartum toolkit for expectant mothers and their partners and loved ones to review before baby’s arrival.  It truly pays to be prepared, regardless of whether you think you may be at risk for PPD or not.  One never knows, as I have said in prior blog posts and in my book, whether something may happen during pregnancy/childbirth that could lead to PPD.  It can’t hurt to review the pact and prepare to have folks lined up to help once baby arrives to ensure the new mother has adequate practical support, especially if this is her first baby or if she has another little one(s) to take care of already.

Speaking of adequate support, it’s organizations like Loom in Los Angeles and Whole Mother Village  in W. Orange, NJ — two examples of many childbirth, pregnancy, and reproductive wellness communities that have sprouted around the country to provide support, information, referrals and services from preconception to parenthood– that are critical because it takes a village when it comes to a family’s well-being.  Going it alone is not a viable option nowadays, especially when the significant other needs to work to support the family and the new mother is not well and family members are not close by and/or are too busy to provide emotional and practical support.  It really is no wonder there are so many cases of PPD.  Please see my past posts about the importance of mothering the mother and how it takes a village to minimize the occurrence of PPD here and here.

 

 

Is This the Way A Doctor’s Office Should Treat a New Mom with PPD? Heck No!

Before you read this post, please read this: 
If either you or a loved one gave birth in the last few weeks or months and you are having problems with insomnia, don’t feel like yourself, experiencing a great deal of anxiety and/or rage and/or are scary thoughts, please call Postpartum Support International (PSI) at 800-944-4773 where trained individuals (many of whom are survivors themselves) will listen to you and connect you with informed providers.

Note that the story you are about to read is an example of what may happen if you and your loved ones are not informed about mood disorders that occur during pregnancy and after childbirth, and your OB/GYN and staff are not properly trained to detect, diagnose, treat and/or refer patients with perinatal mood disorders.  It does not mean that the same thing will happen to you.  If you have any concerns about your own situation, please leave me a message and I will get back to you asap.  Or give that PSI number a call.

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This is the Facebook post that went viral right after it was posted this past Friday, January 19, 2018. Instead of taking legal action (which I most certainly would have done), Jessica is paying it forward by sharing her story so the public can see how broken the healthcare system is when it comes to postpartum care for new mothers.  She also turned down the numerous offers for help she has received since her post went viral and instead asks that everyone who has reached out to her offer their service for a woman of color.

Following is her experience in a nutshell.

  1. Usually, new moms have their first postpartum visit with their OB at 6 weeks. Her first appointment wasn’t scheduled until the 3rd Her OB kept cancelling her appointments for a month, so by the time she went she was 4 months postpartum. That’s not good.
  2. At the doctor’s office, Jessica told the nurse practitioner that she had postpartum depression, which included fits of anger and violent thoughts. She also said she wanted to discuss medication options, needed medication and therapy to get through this, had a strong support system at home, and she would never hurt herself or her baby.  If she’d spoken to me or anyone with experience diagnosing and treating PPD, I would think “Okay, this is a woman who is informed and knows what she is talking about. I have no reason to doubt that she knows what she’s saying, so I will have the doctor see her now so they can talk about treatment options and/or referral to someone experienced with treating PPD.”
  3. But instead of telling the doctor so he could properly assess her condition and discuss treatment and/or referral options, they called the police! In exchange for her honesty and being knowledgeable enough about PPD to advocate for herself, she was treated like a criminal!   A grueling 10-hour ordeal ensued, with her infant in tow.  No medication. Never once speaking with a doctor. No follow-up appointment. She drove with her baby to the ER with 2 police cars escorting them. They took her blood and she had to give a urine sample.  A security guard stood guard.  She had to remove all her clothes, which they took away and locked up.

Like Jessica, I would want to effect change but I would want to give the nurse practitioner and doctor a piece of my mind.  I would’ve been so pissed by this overreaction to a mother knowledgeably informing her doctor’s office of her PPD and the ensuing humiliating experience that ensued, plus I don’t forget bad experiences that easily and who would?  When a mother is suffering from PPD, she is already in an emotionally vulnerable state and this kind overreaction can be the tip of an already unstable iceberg.

Everyone who comes in contact with new mothers should ABSOLUTELY be trained to recognize symptoms of a perinatal mood disorder, to understand that a new mother with a perinatal mood disorder needs support and treatment.  This would apply to nurses, OB/GYNs, general practitioners, pediatricians, doulas, and midwives.  At this point, there shouldn’t be a single OB/GYN doctor and nurse that doesn’t know how to recognize symptoms of a perinatal mood disorder and either treat her or refer her right away to someone who can.  This kind of training should not be optional.   IT MUST BE MANDATORY….i.e., you can’t practice as an OB/GYN doctor or nurse without the mandatory training that Postpartum Support International offers. Let’s advocate for change at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) level, as I’ve been saying for years.

At the end of her post, Jessica proposes crowd sourcing as a way of coming up with solutions to fix this broken healthcare system. She poses very thoughtful and key questions that should prompt immediate discussions among everyone who has anything to do with maternal mental health (e.g., advocates, mental healthcare practitioners, doctors, nurses).  These are her questions, which I’m putting here to help get the word out, as not everyone is on Facebook.

  • Why is the way I was treated standard procedure?
  • What can we do to improve standard procedures for all postpartum mothers, but also specifically those at higher risk for developing PPD and presenting with signs of PPD.
  • Who is most qualified to make suggestions for improvements?
  • Who is actually capable of making the changes to standard procedures, and how can we can contact them?
  • Why was I let go, when so many others would have been put on a mandatory 72 hour psychiatric hold, and had their children taken away?
  • Why do a disproportionate number of women of color who have PPD not receive the services they need, even when they initiate treatment?
  • Why are a disproportionate number of women of color who have PPD misdiagnosed?
  • Why are black women half as likely to receive mental health treatment and counseling as white women?
  • What can we do as a community to lift up our marginalized members and make sure they receive the quality care that we ALL have a right to?!?

I am hopeful that we will make some headway, since this post has gone viral as she’d hope it would be.  I am already hearing that advocacy groups like 2020Mom reach out to Jessica, who is going to join 2020Mom in a rally in Sacramento, California state capital, which just so happens to be where Jessica’s story took place.  2020Mom is in the process of introducing 4 bills in California.

I have previously shared how my PPD experience was a critical steppingstone to becoming the person I am today, and do not regret it except for the time that I lost during the weeks I was not myself. My PPD experience changed the course of my life.  I believe I had PPD for a reason, as it has given me the courage to speak up, blog, publish a book, and change my career path.

I somehow get this feeling that Jessica’s PPD experience is a steppingstone to advocacy and change when it comes to maternal mental health matters.  I am pretty sure this is just the beginning of her involvement in maternal mental health advocacy.

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your experience!

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Update to post: 
Jessica Porten’s story has gone viral and made it into various news media, which is what I’d hoped would happen.  The more ways her story gets shared, the more people she reaches (including folks in the medical field). Here are just some of the places her story has popped up:

Sacramento CBS news: “Mom Shocked After Doctor’s Visit For Postpartum Depression Leads To Police Escort To ER” by Steve Large.

NowThis Her video

Medium: “Address Postpartum Depression with Training and Treatment, Not Police” by Ann Smith, current President of PSI.

Slate: “She Asked for Help for Postpartum Depression. The Nurse Called the Cops.” by Darby Saxbe.

Upworthy: “A mom told her OB she might have postpartum depression. Then they called the cops.” by Evan Porter.

Romper: “This Mom Had The Cops Called On Her After Seeking Help For PPD, & Her Story Is A Must-Read” by Karen Fratti.

Romper: “Why Are We Letting Our Mothers Die?” A Conversation About Postpartum Treatment” by Ashley Stoney.

Research4Moms: “No More Excuses: Providers Are Accountable for Their Lack of Knowledge About Moms’ Mental Health” by Shannon Hennig.

Dearly: “Mom Says She Needs Help for Postpartum Depression. Nurse Leaves the Room…to Call the Police” by Prudence Hill.

Huffpo Canada: “A Mom With Postpartum Depression Asked For Help. Her Nurse Called The Cops” by Patricia Tomasi.