Happy Mother’s Day 2017

Dear Mama-

If you’re visiting my blog, I just want to let you know that you are not alone in your postpartum experience.

You may feel like you are alone.  But you aren’t.

I am a PPD survivor.  There are MANY PPD survivors.  I am here for you.  There are many PPD survivors out there for you.

I love analogies, and I’m going to use one here.  I have pansies outside on the deck that I never expected to make it all winter with the cold, snow and ice, but it DID make it.  I covered the plant with a plastic food container to prevent it from getting crushed by snow/ice and to protect it from the below-freezing temps and wind.  I visited it, touched the one or 2 flowers that endured during the winter, and spoke to them (never thought I’d ever be a flower whisperer, but here I am) as much as I could.

Here are the persistent pansies that failed to let the elements prevent them from standing tall.

And here are the pansies today!  

You will get through the sleepless nights due to your anxiety, insomnia, feelings of helplessness.  Just like the pansies surviving was doubtful, they were able to persist because they received care and support.

I made it, without even knowing that what I had was PPD.

I made it through with crappy bedside manner from both my OB and doctor.

I made it with no support from anyone else around me except for my husband. I’d never heard of anyone having PPD before.

I didn’t know about Postpartum Support International (PSI).

I wasn’t on the Internet much back then.  It was 2005. I wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter.

I wasn’t referred to any therapists who specialize in PPD.  I didn’t have a support group, either.

But I made it.  And YOU WILL TOO.

If you are reading this and you are suffering and don’t have any idea how to get help, please leave me a comment.  I will respond and try to help you find resources to help you get through this.  You can also go to the PSI website for phone and local resources.

There was a blog post from fellow PPD survivor, Andrea Bates, author of the blog “Good Girl Gone Redneck” featured on the PSI website on World Maternal Mental Health Day this past week that I want you to visit if you haven’t seen it already.  Please check it out.  She’s a wonderful writer.  I wish I could write like her.  She also wrote 3 blog posts leading up to Mother’s Day this past week that you should also check out.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!

Love,
Ivy
❤ ❤ ❤

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.

Tri-State Area Resources for New Mothers and Professionals Who Care for Them

I will be adding to this post as I think of other resources…

Postpartum Support International (PSI)

I’ve been a member of PSI since 2006 and have met many wonderful, dedicated and caring social workers, therapists, peer-to-peer support group leaders, etc. at its conferences over the years.  The PSI website, as I’ve mentioned in numerous previous posts, provides a listing of resources by state. There is also a warm line for those who need telephone support.

I’m happy to mention that more and more PSI chapters are forming. For example, in the tri-state area the PSI-CT chapter just recently formed https://psictchapter.com/ and NJ is in the process of forming a PSI-NJ chapter.  Click here for the article  published on February 20th that highlights the purpose of the PSI-CT chapter.  The PSI-NJ chapter is in the early stages of development, but the officers are now in place and ramping up plans with monthly calls to establish committees. The chapter has a Facebook page and a website is in the works as well.

If you would like to get involved with either chapter, please let me know and I can put you in touch with them.

Maternal Mental Healthcare Centers

When it comes to mothers’ centers, there are 2 on my mind in New York City:

Seleni Institute
The Motherhood Center of New York

I will be adding NJ and CT ones in the next few days.

Workshops for Professionals, Peer Support Group Leaders, and Advocates

The Partnership for Maternal & Child Health of Northern New Jersey will be hosting training events featuring Cheryl Tatano Beck, DNSc, CNM, FAAN, Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut, School of Nursing.

Click here for more information about the workshop scheduled for April 26th in New Providence.
Click here for information about the workshop scheduled for April 27th in Englewood.

The target audience for these workshops includes physicians, nurses, social workers and others (like peer-to-peer support group leaders) working with perinatal women.  Advocates and others concerned about maternal mental health (like me) are also welcome to sign up.

I will be sure to post information about events intended for new mothers and for those who are dedicating their lives in helping new mothers.

 

 

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!

Postpartum Support International’s 2015 Blog Hop – Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

On the eve of Mother’s Day, here I am struggling with a blog post for the 3rd annual Postpartum Support International (PSI) Blog Hop for Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month.  The topic of the blog hop is “You are not alone: Focus on Support Groups and Resources.”

PSI Blog Hop Badge by Lauren Hale

Please consider joining the blog hop to help spread awareness!  All you have to do is go to the Dr. Christi Hibbert’s blog, and read the guidelines.  There, you will see all the other blogs who are participating in this blog hop.  You have all month in which to join the blog hop.

Support Groups and Resources can be in the form of local organizations, like PPD support groups in a local hospital or in your community (too many to name, but I do list many under my Support Groups/Local Resources links on my blog, in addition to all the local resources listed on the PSI resources page).  You can also find a number of excellent online PPD communities for support, like the closed Facebook groups Postpartum Progress#PPDChat Support, and Postpartum Support International.

I saw a post earlier tonight that inspired me to write the below “poem.”  I’m not sure what I wrote constitutes poetry, but at least you can see I tried to rhyme.  That’s all I remember from my high school days of writing and reading poetry.

I was just telling my husband earlier tonight how it seemed that more mom friends I know are either indifferent about Mother’s Day or dreading it for one reason or another.  Even this morning’s Z100 phone tap was focused on a son’s pretending to argue with his mom about having a big get-together at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse for Mother’s Day.  She was dead set against it because she historically has never wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day (and she could have a very good reason but we don’t know what that is….and neither does the son, apparently).

Before my own motherhood journey that made me realize that not all motherhood experiences are glowing from the get-go or at all, I just assumed that all mothers looked forward to Mother’s Day because it was a day that celebrates and acknowledges mothers for all their love and hard work.

Now, after having gone through what I went through and meeting many new moms in the past ten years, I know there are a lot of moms wishing there wasn’t such a thing as Mother’s Day. It’s these moms I want to dedicate today’s post to.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Are you pretending to look forward to Mother’s Day
When all you really want to do is treat it like any other day?
Or be left alone so you don’t have to spend the extra energy showing your children
How happy you are they remembered to abide with the tradition
Of a card, flowers, gift and/or brunch or dinner out.
After all, that’s what Mother’s Day is really about….

Or is it?

I know that for some women, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of certain things.
I won’t bring up the reasons for the pain for fear of triggering negative feelings.
Whatever the reason,
Know that you are not alone.
Just like childbirth and motherhood experiences always appear so smooth and happy,
They aren’t…..it just appears that way.
It’s natural for you to feel alone if you had any childbirth or postpartum difficulties.
But there are communities
Of women out there who share a similar deal
As you and can help  you to heal.

So, if you are feeling low
And don’t feel up to celebrating Mother’s Day, then say so.
No point in pretending to say and do
Whatever people expect of you.
Like have a whole big to-do
With the extended family, in-laws too.

The important thing–and it should be every day–
Not just on Mother’s Day (a good ol’ Hallmark Day),
Is that you focus on self care.
Whether it be sleeping in and then sipping a hot cup o’ joe, lounging in PJs, getting a manicure,
Watching a flick or two, sipping a glass o’ wine or two, reading
A favorite book, or a day free of laundry, dishes, cooking and cleaning.
You deserve to treat yourself in such a way
Not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.

With love,
Ivy