The First Center of its Kind in New Jersey

As I mentioned a few days ago, I took the day off because  I needed to witness the grand opening of the very first center of its kind in my home state: The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at Monmouth Medical Center.

 

 

 

 

 

After paying this center a visit personally and hearing about the immensely positive impact it has had the past 6 years since Lisa Tremayne first endeavored to provide a place for mothers suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) to go to for help, I am just so, so amazed and have such tremendous respect for Lisa and for the staff.

 

 

 

 

There were many mothers/babies there that were there to celebrate with Lisa and the amazing staff.

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Graebe, MD (Chairman of the OB/GYN Dept) kicked off the ceremony.

 

 

 

 

 

Followed by Mary Jo Codey who recounted her personal experience with PPD so long ago.  I’ve heard her speak what must be a dozen times by now, but hearing her wrenching experience from when she suffered from severe PPD in the 1980s and a second time in the 1990s always serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come and yet how much further we still need to go when it comes to helping new mothers realize when and how to get help, helping doctors correctly diagnose and treat PPD.  She wrapped up her speech with a statement about how grateful she is for the existence of this center and how we need to make sure more centers like this open up in New Jersey.  Click here  and here for articles posted earlier today that include pictures and video clips.

After the former First Lady’s speech came Lisa Tremayne who gave a brief history of the center and how it has been helping mothers since 2011 and then introduced PPD survivors Meg Santonacita, Luciana Mangyik, and Carolyn Stack, each of whom shared their experiences and how the center helped each of them to recover.

 

 

 

 

 

After the speeches came the ribbon cutting ceremony!

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month – 2017

Just like this time last year, I’ve come across so many things on my Facebook feed in the past few days–all in anticipation of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month– that I’m just going to highlight all the exciting work, developments, other mothers’ experiences, and upcoming events all in one post.  It’s just a shame that these exciting developments, including articles to boost awareness, don’t happen all year round!  Think about how much more progress there would be if that were to happen!

As I stumble across more articles this month, I will add them to this blog post.

 

House Bill 1764 in Illinois

I saw an exciting announcement today on my Facebook feed from my friend Dr. Susan Benjamin Feingold, a nationally renowned expert on perinatal (pregnancy and postpartum) disorders and the author of Happy Endings, New Beginnings: Navigating Postpartum Disorders.  She testified yesterday in the Illinois Senate Criminal Committee.  HB 1764 just passed the Senate Committee and must next pass the full Senate.  Once the Governor signs off on it, it becomes Illinois law, making Illinois the first state to pass such a law!  Such a law has existed in the UK since 1922 when the Infanticide Act was put in place to ensure mothers receive psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation, rather than a death sentence or life in prison. Canada and several other European countries have also adopted similar laws.  It’s about time the US did too!

It’s due in large part to the following individuals that HB 1764 has made it thus far:  Dr. Feingold and Lita Simanis, LCSW who provided critical testimony, Bill Ryan (retired Assistant Deputy Director at the Illinois Department of Family and Child Services who regularly visited the Lincoln Correctional Center in Logan County, IL and heard the stories of numerous women serving long or lifetime prison sentences for crimes committed while sick with a postpartum disorder) who proposed the law and brought it to State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (83rd District) who sponsored it, and Barry Lewis (Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney) who provided a written brief and expert testimony as to why this law is constitutional (in response to opposition from the State Attorney).

Click here for more information about postpartum psychosis and why this news is of such significance and a major stepping stone to what will hopefully be the passing of similar legislation throughout the U.S.   Cases of postpartum psychosis are rare and cases of ones leading to infanticide are even rarer.  But as the article states, all cases of postpartum psychosis are neurochemically caused.  Usually, women who are sick with postpartum psychosis don’t even know that’s what was wrong with them and their conditions go untreated, undiagnosed or diagnosed but not properly treated.  During trial, these women are not allowed to talk about their conditions or have them considered as mitigating factors in sentencing.  Although the idea of infanticide is truly tragic and unfathomable, try donning your empathy hat and imagine what it would be like if it were you (be sure to read up on what postpartum psychosis is and what it does to a person first) that was being controlled by  neurochemistry gone completely out of whack until tragedy strikes with an act you commit–one that you could not prevent or control due to your illness–that you will pay for dearly for the rest of your life enduring painful, unrelenting regret, many years or life in jail (or even face the death sentence), and with your illness never addressed or treated.

 

PPD Screening in NYC and Texas:
On May 18th, First Lady of NYC, Chirlane McCray, announced that NYC Health + Hospitals will screen EVERY new mother for maternal depression.  NYC Health & Hospitals provides healthcare services to more than 1.4 million New Yorkers in more than 70 patient care locations and in their homes throughout New York City.  Click here for the link to her Facebook page announcement.  Click here for more about NYC Health & Hospitals.

On my Facebook feed on May 23rd, I saw a link to an article that made my eyes pop wide open!  How exciting was it for me to read that, over in Texas, House Bill 2466 was passed for new mothers participating in federally-backed health care programs (for low-income families) like Medicaid to be screened for PPD when they bring their babies to see their pediatricians.  Yes, mothers who bring their babies in for their checkups can get screened for PPD by their babies’ pediatricians, and the screening would be covered under their children’s plan, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Research has shown that PPD is less likely to be identified and treated among low-income mothers, and this bill seeks to detect PPD through newborn checkups.  The rationale is–which I’ve blogged about previously and even wrote about it in my book–since mothers are not required to see their OB/GYN after childbirth unless there’s a medical issue that needs treatment, there is the opportunity at their babies’ 1-month checkup for the pediatrician to screen the mother.

 

Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Women’s Behavioral Health:
In my Facebook feed today, I spotted an article about a new center like The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at Monmouth Medical Center, which celebrated its grand opening on May 5th.  Click here for my blog post about this first of a kind center in New Jersey.  Due to open this fall, the the Alexis Joy D’Achille Center for Women’s Behavioral Health will offer comprehensive maternal mental health care at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield, PA, in partnership between Allegheny Health Network and the Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation.  This new facility will offer a wide range of treatment, including weekly therapy, an intensive outpatient program and partial hospitalization for women with more severe forms of PPD.  The Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation was founded by Steven D’Achille in memory of his late wife who at the age of 30 lost her battle against the severe PPD that hit her after she had her daughter in August 2013.  The article about this new center talks about the work it has done to benefit new mothers since 2015, and the work it plans to do once the facility is completed.

 

Personal Success Story: If You Only Ask – by Jordan Reid
Being your own advocate by being informed about postpartum mood disorders, knowing your risk, and being prepared for the possibility – unfortunately, you have to for self-preservation purposes because there aren’t enough resources to catch the moms who fall through the cracks of doctors failing to diagnose, treat or even refer maternal mood disorders. The post reflects the main steps I suggest in chapter 5 of my book, which delves into risk factors and coming up with a prevention plan.  I also touch on being prepared in a previous blog post by having a therapist lined up, just in case, if you think you are at high risk for postpartum depression (PPD).  I’ve also blogged about risk factors for PPD.

 

Postpartum Support International (PSI):
The annual PSI conference is coming up in Philadelphia!  Register by May 8th to take advantage of early bird rates for its PMD certificate course from 7/12-13, as well as for the regular 2-day conference from 7/14-15).

Additionally, PSI has just announced its partnership with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) School of Medicine to expand the PPD ACT.  The PPD ACT is an iPhone app previously released in the U.S. and Australia to study PPD, which is now expanding its reach to iPhones in Canada and to Android phones in the U.S. and Australia.  The app was designed to help understand why some women suffer from PPD and others don’t, in the hope of improving the ability to minimize risk and find more effective treatments.  Women with the app can participate in surveys and DNA testing to study the genes of those suffering from PPD.  This study is the first of its kind.  Last year, approximately 14,000 women enrolled in the study.  Many women who participated were successfully treated for PPD. Ultimately, the hope is to be able to expand the study across the globe.  To download the app or learn more about the study or PPD, click here. For more information about the PPD ACT, click here to access the UNC-Chapel Hill announcemen, here for a HuffPost Canada post announcement, and here for a Mom.me post titled “Find Out If You Have Postpartum Depression Without Leaving Home” by Claudiya Martinez on May 15, 2017.

 

National Coalition of Maternal Mental Health (NCMMH):
And last and most definitely not least, please have a look at how you can participate in Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (May 1-7) led by the National Coalition of Maternal Mental Health (NCMMH).  Click here to see how you can partner along with other organizations, blogs, authors, mental healthcare providers, etc. in the awareness initiative by becoming a social media partner (like me) to NCMMH.  Help spread the word about the #1 complication of childbirth on Facebook and Twitter by changing your profile pictures and cover pictures, as well as re-tweeeting/re-posting digital messages from the NCMMH’s Twitter and Facebook accounts from May 1-7.

 

The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at Monmouth Medical Center – Grand Opening on May 4, 2017

Announcing the Grand Opening of The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Center at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC)!  This is such an exciting development for New Jersey that I’m taking the day off from work to attend this grand opening to meet the program’s multi-disciplinary team of experts and clinicians certified by Postpartum Support International.

When:  Thursday, May 4 at 1:00 p.m. (ribbon cutting starts then)
Where:  Maysie Stroock Pavilion (Pavilion & Second Avenue, Long Branch)
RSVP:  Email teamlink@rwjbh.org or call 888.724.7123
Agenda:  Speakers will include Mary Jo Codey (former NJ First Lady who will share her personal experience with postpartum depression (PPD), Lisa Tremayne, Robert Graebe, MD (Chairman of the OB/GYN Dept), and several PPD survivors who are former patients of the center.

Thank you to Lisa Tremayne, RN, CPPD, CBC, CCE — maternal child health nurse at MMC — for graciously providing the details of how New Jersey’s VERY FIRST perinatal mood and anxiety center of its kind has evolved under her persistent efforts.

After the birth of her triplets (after 6 years of not being able to conceive naturally and one round of IVF) in 1998, Lisa suffered from what she later learned was postpartum anxiety/postpartum OCD, which greatly affected her life as a new mom.  She experienced racing thoughts and living in a constant state of anxiety.  She never received help, no one ever questioned if she was okay, and it took years for her to fully recover.

It wasn’t until 2007 when she was at a mandated lunch and learn with the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium that she learned she had what they referred to as postpartum depression (PPD).  Not telling anyone about her experience, she started volunteering for the consortium, and helped patients find resources and help. In 2011 she became the MMC Childbirth Education Manager. As facilitator for a new moms support group she quickly realized many mothers were suffering from PPD.  She then received permission to start a PPD support group, which was instantly well received and attended by large numbers of mothers.  It was at that point she broke her silence and shared her experience with others. She presented her plan to start a PPD program to new business development, but it wasn’t until April 2015 that the plan was accepted and the program was started with the support of the chairperson of OB.  The program consisted of Lisa, a therapist and a psychiatric nurse practitioner on a part-time basis. Since then, the program has grown.  It is now a mother/baby program in which babies are not only allowed but encouraged to attend with their mothers so the staff can assess mother/baby attachment at all times.  Many classes/workshops are designed specifically for the mother/baby.

Lisa and the other dedicated members of the program are excited about the grand opening that is finally going to take place on May 4th!  To date there have been intakes of over 800 women, and 500 women have received medical evaluation, treatment and referrals to appropriate services through the program.  On average, there are 30 new patients a month.  Lisa hopes the program will evolve into a partial day stay program by 2018.  The program is interdisciplinary and every member is completely passionate about helping moms/babies, normalizing this temporary and treatable illness and educating the public that this is the #1 complication of childbirth.

The Fed is Best Onesie Drive – Now til May 13, 2017

I have previously blogged (click here and here) about the importance of a baby being fed….whether they are breastfed, bottle fed with pumped milk or formula, or a combination thereof–what matters is they are adequately fed. Period.

Partly because my focus has been on other things and also because it’s been over 11 years since I had my breastfeeding challenges, I haven’t blogged or even read any blog posts or articles on breastfeeding or the whole Breast is Best philosophy since, let’s see, two years ago (April 18, 2015 to be exact).  A couple of days ago, The Fed is Best Foundation reached out to me to see if I would be willing to blog about their fundraiser.  I told them I would be happy to, since the information they have to share is of extreme importance, and my mission is to help educate new mothers and their families to help reduce the risk of a postpartum mood disorder from occurring.

The Fed Is Best Foundation is a 501(c)(3) registered not-for-profit dedicated to the education and advocacy of safe infant feeding. The foundation believes no baby should ever go hungry and no mother should ever feel shamed for whatever feeding option best suits her situation, in order to prevent complications to babies that have become too common in today’s “Breast is Best” world. You can prevent such complications–and even tragic circumstances–with knowledge and support, which is what the foundation seeks to provide.

To help raise funds to support the foundation’s important work, it is hosting a Onesie Drive from now until May 13th, in which you can purchase a featured onesie at a special price!

Click here for more details about the drive on Facebook. Or click here for a direct link to the booster to order your onesie(s) today.  There will be a Photo Contest in June for all the adorable babies rocking Fed Is Best swag, so start thinking up poses for your precious baby!

If you hadn’t done so previously, please go over to the Fed is Best website to check out its links that provide:

1. The details of the personal experience of The Fed is Best co-founder Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, M.D. and her story as reflected in her letter to doctors and parents about the dangers of insufficient exclusive breastfeeding.
2. Helpful resources for parents, which I wish I had had access to when I was trying to breastfeed and suffered so many challenges that I’m sure contributed toward the postpartum depression I experienced.
3. An online petition to urge policymakers like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and Surgeon General–in addition to hospitals and doctors– to support and educate mothers and their families on safe, clinically-effective infant feeding protocols, and to preventing infant starvation as a result of current well-intended but rigid breastfeeding protocols.  The petition page contains a video about newborn dehydration and how to avoid disastrous consequences.
4. The Fed is Best in the news (links to articles)

5. About The Fed is Best: mission, co-founders and advocates and advisors

Thank you in advance for your support of this worthy cause!

Sounds of Silence 9th Annual Run/Walk – April 29, 2017

I’m late in posting this…nowadays it’s just so easy to lose track of time!

Join the Sounds of Silence, Friends of the Postpartum Resource Center of New York’s 9th annual run/walk in memory and celebration of Lisa Mary Reilly and help raise funds in the effort to increase awareness of perinatal mood disorders, such as postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis.   Not only is this for an excellent cause, it will be a nice opportunity to race (or walk) a beautiful 5K boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean.

This annual fundraiser was started back in 2009 by sisters Erin Mascaro and Lisa Reilly. It was Lisa’s experience with PPD after the birth of her daughter–an experience so deeply painful and full of suffering (a suffering that many others like her feel forced to endure in silence) that was witnessed by Erin and other loved ones–that motivated Erin and Lisa to break the silence of PPD with the Sounds of Silence annual run/walk .

Please help spread the word about this fundraiser by blogging or sharing the flyer on Facebook/Twitter.

Sponsors Needed:  They are looking for sponsors, so companies looking for opportunities to support a wonderful cause that benefits mothers and their families should seriously consider this opportunity!  Click here for more info.

Date:  Saturday, April 29, 2017

Time:  Registration from 8:00-9:00; race/walk begins at 9:30 AM.  There will be a Kids Fun Run, Raffles, Food and more.

Place:   Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh, Long Island (Field 5)

Registration:  $25 (adults); $15 (ages 11-18); $5 (ages 10 and under); register here.

Virtual Participation:  For those of you who can’t make it in person, you can participate virtually by registering via this link.

Other Race Details:  The top female and male runners, plus top fundraiser, will receive awards.  Back in 2009, I was one of the two top fundraisers, bringing in over $1,000 (as an individual).

For More Information, please click here or here.

All proceeds will go towards supporting the important services the Postpartum Resource Center of New York, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (tax ID #11-3449880), provides to new mothers and their families.  To learn more about its services, go to:  http://postpartumny.org.

Best Beginnings Out of the Blue Launch

Earlier today I was thrilled when I saw on my Facebook timeline this video of the Duchess of Cambridge announcing the Best Beginnings Out of the Blue launch.  Best Beginnings is a charitable organization created to ensure the best start to life for families in the UK by providing support to expectant and new parents, training healthcare professionals, educating the public and working with the government to effect change.  Best Beginnings was founded by Alison Baum in 2006.  To help ensure the best start to life for children, it is essential for mothers to be well.  But postpartum mood disorders rear their ugly heads in as many as one in five new mothers, and for all too many mothers they are blindsided by these illnesses and don’t know that what they’re experiencing is common and treatable. The consequences can be tragic for the entire family in extreme cases, but in all cases are a negative impact to the new mother and baby.

Out of the Blue is a series of online videos about postpartum mental health conditions, such as postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety, postpartum traumatic stress disorder (postpartum PTSD), postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (Postpartum OCD) and fathers who suffer from PPD.  I hope they add a video about postpartum psychosis as well, as that severe condition can have tragic consequences for the mother and/or baby.

I’ve had much respect for the Duke of Cambridge (can’t get used to calling Prince William this) and Prince Henry of Wales, who reminds me so much of his mother Princess Diana, whose death absolutely crushed me.  But now I have a new respect for the Duchess, not just for her involvement with Best Beginnings, which I’m sure her personal experience having children played a very large part in motivating her, but for her involvement with William and Harry in Heads Together, a not-for-profit whose mission is to end stigma surrounding mental health.  Read more about how Prince Harry became a mental health advocate here (this sentence added on 4/17/17).

Looking from across the pond, I heave a sigh of envy that the UK has such a caring trio of royals whose actions reflect the kind of leadership we so desperately need but lack here in the U.S.  Instead, here we are faced with a delusional, lying, narcissistic, misogynist serving as President and surrounded by a self serving, rich, conflict-ridden administration who could care less about the health and well being of women…..after all, look at the record of the extreme right pushing their pro-life/anti-woman agenda.  SMH

Defiant Girl vs Bull

I wanted to post my memorable adventure into downtown Manhattan yesterday afternoon, but wanted to stick with my determination to avoid being political on this blog. But since I’m such a lover of analogies, it just dawned on me how I could work my experience (my visit with the Defiant Girl statue, also known as “Fearless Girl,” facing off with the Charging Bull at Bowling Green) into my blog.  So, here I am posting the experience of the adventure…with a twist.

I took the PATH train to the World Trade Center. This is only the 2nd time I’ve taken the PATH there since 9/11. I used to take the PATH there every day back when I used to work at 7 WTC.  The first time I took the PATH there post-9/11, the Oculus wasn’t even built.  It’s an amazing architectural feat!

I took the subway to Wall Street and walked over to check out the Defiant Girl statue and needless to say there were throng of tourists present on day 2, post debut.  Thank you, State Street (firm that manages $2.5 trillion in assets) for this statue!  I sincerely hope they will make this a permanent fixture rather than taking it away in a week or month!  State Street chose the perfect time–International Women’s Day– to put the Defiant Girl statue there.  And yes, I did take the day off for #ADayWithoutAwoman but I also took today (Thur) and tomorrow off for a long-overdue vacation. The statue was actually, upon further reading about this statue, a joint effort of State Street and the McCann New York advertising agency.  What a clever marketing effort to not just draw attention to the index fund giant’s effort to get more women into executive positions/board roles but also to the anniversary of the launch of an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks companies that have higher levels of gender diversity in their leadership!  The plaque in front of the girl says “SHE makes a difference,” which cleverly not only represents the girl but also the ticker for the ETF.  I was surprised to learn that State Street is has warned the 3500 public companies in which it invests that it will vote their share against them if the directors of these firms do not make tangible progress toward adding women to their boards.

It was wonderful to see so many young children and families taking pictures of/with the statue. The statue of the girl faces the bull with her hands on her hips and a defiant expression on her face.  I overheard parents explaining to their children what the statue represents. This girl is standing in defiance against the bull, a symbol of not just the market (bull vs bear) but of an industry traditionally dominated by men.  And I thought to myself “This.” Raising a future generation of girls who will be fearless when faced with challenges in women’s rights (e.g., employment, reproductive rights, etc.).  I felt a surge of optimism despite what’s going on under the current Presidency (sorry, I had to mention this because it’s relevant to what I’m writing about). Despite the cold wind as the sun set, I stood there for about an hour, just taking in people’s reactions to the statue.  I will not forget this experience.

Here’s one of many pictures I took of the statue, and she happens to be wearing a pussyhat. I also took a picture of the girl facing off with the bull, which was not an easy thing to do given the number of tourists crowded around both statues and in between, but I managed to get this shot when someone yelled out for everyone to clear the area so pictures could be taken.

Photo credit: Ivy Shih Leung at 5:00 pm, March 8, 2017, International Women’s Day

Photo credit: Ivy Shih Leung at 5:30 pm, March 8, 2017, International Women’s Day

Here’s where my analogy comes in.

If you are fighting postpartum depression (PPD), think of yourself as the girl–with that look of defiance on her face and with hands on hips–and the PPD as the bull.  Tell it to back the hell off.  *It* can be the PPD itself, stigma associated with it, voices in your head that cause you to feel ashamed for not enjoying your motherhood due to this illness, and/or doctors who tell you to *buck up* or treat you with poor bedside manner.  YOU CAN DO IT.  There are resources and caring people around you who can help. It is not shameful to ask for help. It is not shameful to be sick. It is not shameful to have to take medication (I did). It is not shameful to be unable to feel the joy you thought you would feel after the birth of your baby. PPD is an illness that needs to be treated the same way diabetes or any other illness needs to be treated.  

Photo credit: Sarah Kimball who actually knit the hat (taken around 6:30 pm, March 8, 2017, International Women’s Day)

I also wanted to mention that my primary reason for visiting Bowling Green wasn’t even to see the statue (plans were made last week re: pussyhat on the bull but the statue wasn’t put up until 2 days ago, March 7th) but to be present for the pussyhatting of the Charging Bull.  Yes, you heard right. My friend, Sarah Kimball, spent the last couple of weeks knitting a hat just for the bull.  And her goal was to put it on the bull on International Women’s Day.  Here’s a pic of the bull. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw this (or any other picture taken of it last night) somewhere else online or more ideally in a newspaper, like the NY Times. Brava, Sarah Kimball, for your awesome handiwork, a historic moment that I wish had been captured by a news outlet. But the picture is slowing making its way across the Internet, as it’s been shared via Facebook and Twitter. And now with this blog post.