The Every Mother, Every Time White House Petition: What It Means

Okay, today was a reaaaaaally rough day at work.  I got home around 8:15 pm.  Missed a woman’s club meeting I was planning to attend.  Was able to see my daughter for a little over an hour before having to put her to bed.  I’ve had 5 hours of sleep for the past few nights straight.

But…. I am making this post a priority.

My last blog post was written and published 2 days after Ebony Wilkerson drove her minivan into the ocean at Daytona Beach, but I have since updated it with new information relating to the White House petition, Every Mother, Every Time that was subsequently created.  There are now nearly 1500 signatures to the petition, and we need 100,000 to mandate a national conversation about perinatal mood disorders (PMDs) and how we can help prevent mothers like Ebony, Miriam Carey, and Cynthia Wachtenheim–these are just some of the tragedies that took place here in this country in the past few months (the list goes on)–from having to fall through the cracks.  With an occurrence of PMDs of approximately 1 out of 7 new mothers, people like the amazing Dr. Walker Karraa are tired of the status quo of being reactive.  It’s time to be PROACTIVE!

Dr. Karraa had a Q&A interview with Every Mother Counts, founded in 2010 by none other than Christy Turlington.  Click here for the Q&A.    Dr. Karraa also guest posted today over at healthyplace.com about the petition.  Click here to read it.  Please take a few minutes to read both pieces so you can learn what the petition is hoping to accomplish and why.  Don’t let any preconceived notions or fears that you may have keep you from opening your eyes and making a judgment for yourself.

You’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard about this petition via more media outlets, organizations, blogs, and other social media.  I can’t say that I understand why.  Perhaps they feel that 100,000 is unattainable and therefore not worth the effort?  Or this is a conflict of interest of some sort (not sure how that could possibly be the case because this is about advocating for increased public awareness and resources to treat and support new mothers suffering from PMDs)?  Or for some of the other reasons mentioned in the two Walker Karraa pieces.

Whatever the case may be, I want to just say that, if there is an opportunity for a conversation to be brought to the forefront so that more OB/GYNs–those who have dedicated themselves to women’s reproductive health–take responsibility to screen (i.e., ask a couple simple questions, know how to recognize and properly diagnose a PMD, know how to provide their patients options, refer patients to mental health practitioners if necessary), I am going to drop what I’m doing and help pass the word on.

I’m asking that you do too.

FOR MIRIAM

Has it really been over 2 months since my last blog post?  I did say previously that I’ve been slowly losing momentum over the past year or so.  As most bloggers can appreciate, my tendency is to blog in reaction to something that either upsets me or excites me.  While there’s been a general lack of negative news (including ignorant things uttered by the public and journalists about incidents that only serve to further stigmatize postpartum mood and disorders, or PMADs), there’s also been a dearth of exciting new research, legislative and/or postpartum support services developments over the past couple of months to motivate me to put pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard.  The former is good; the latter not so good.

Well, I’ve taken up the virtual pen to write today’s blog post.  It’s a blog post that will share the same title with numerous others (based on the support the For Miriam FB page has received in the past few days) who are banding together to spread awareness about PMADs.  These blog posts are dedicated to Miriam Carey.

Miriam.  We know she was a mother.  We know she had her one year old child in her car.  We know that that child is now without a mother.  We know from what has been shared by Miriam’s loved ones that she was being treated for postpartum psychosis.  We know that medication was found in her Stamford, CT, home.  We know she was using her vehicle in a way that caused law enforcement to, unfortunately, shoot to kill.  We know (but far from like the fact) that they are trained to do that.  Though, I’m not sure the one who shot her feels too good about what they had to do.  This loss of life is, simply put, tragic….and the reason why my dear friend, Dr. Walker Karraa, decided to corral this blog carnival in Miriam’s name.

Anyhow, without Miriam’s doctor coming forward and confirming the actual diagnosis, let’s just say that we are going to take this opportunity—since misinformation was once again so quick to be released to the public—to educate the public about PMADs.  Postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum psychosis (PPP), and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder are some of the PMADs that exist.  They are real and they are treatable.  Problem is, all too many mothers suffering such disorders are 1) failing to seek treatment for whatever reason, 2) seeking help but are either not getting the right treatment or are getting the right treatment but not staying on it long enough for it to become effective, and/or 3) not getting enough support during recovery.

A lot of people have this tendency—a tendency that is in serious need of a reality check—to use PPD to generalize the spectrum of PMADs that exist.  It does not help anyone to report in such a fashion as to fan the embers of stigma and myths that PMAD advocates are trying so desperately to put out.  It definitely does NOT help when you have psychologists who are claiming that “postpartum depression has led mothers to kill their children.”  We know we have a lot of work to do if a psychologist is saying things like this on a show watched by over 4 million people.  Talk about taking 1 step forward and 2 gigantic leaps–not steps–backward.  Geez Louise.  Can’t the networks do a better job of finding true subject matter experts from organizations like Postpartum Support International (PSI)?  They should have PSI on their list of subject matter experts under the category of Mental Health (or more aptly Maternal Mental Health).  PSI should be the very FIRST place to consult with in times like this!

I can’t say that absolutely nothing grates me more than major news agencies spreading misinformation, because I do have a couple things that grate me more….but I won’t get into that here.  But I have to say that it angers me enough to want to do something.  Since video/television opportunities are not something I actively seek—and I’m probably the last person anyone would ever call on anyway—the only thing I can do is lend my voice today, on World Mental Health Day 2013.  Today, I join with other bloggers in a For Miriam blog carnival to try to increase the reach of getting our voices out there for the world to see.

PPD is quite a common illness.  It is experienced by one out of eight new mothers.  I am, in fact, a PPD survivor.  Many of the For Miriam bloggers are PMAD survivors.  Many of us took up blogging to try to reach other moms suffering from a PMAD and making sure they don’t suffer as much and feel as alone as we did in our experiences.  We don’t like it that there’s stigma.  We don’t like it that there are unknown numbers of women who fail to seek treatment due to this stigma.  And we definitely don’t like it when we hear about yet another PMAD-related tragedy.

Granted, information is nowadays very accessible when you search on the Internet for information and blogs about PMADs.  However, I still have yet to see posters and pamphlets in all the offices of medical health practitioners (i.e., general practitioners, OB/GYNs) in this country!  Between misleading statements made by mental health care practitioners, like the psychologist interviewed for The Today Show, plus the lack of information proactively being given to the public, we still find ourselves stuck in a similar ignorance- and stigma-filled rut that we were stuck in 12 years ago after the Andrea Yates’ tragedy.   I can’t say how disappointed and frustrated I really am.

The good that’s stemming from this tragedy is the number of advocates speaking up and sharing their subject matter expertise on PMADs, specifically PPP.

With that <clearing throat>….

AHEM, ALL MEDIA OUTLETS!  Please DO NOT continue to focus on publishing news in a rush because you want to be the first to get your article out to the public.  Ask yourselves:  Is your priority to get your headline to trend?  Or is it to serve the public well by disseminating accurate information?  Please, please, please read the For Miriam posts and please, please, please go to the below sites for ACCURATE information about PPP:

Postpartum Support International
Dr. Walker Karraa
Postpartum Stress Center (Karen Kleinman)
Perinatal Pro (Susan  Dowd Stone)

Now, as I end this post, I would like to humbly ask you to consider doing the following, as part of World Mental Health Day 2013….and for Miriam:

First, to join me in prayer for Miriam’s loved ones.

Second, to go and read as many of the other For Miriam blog posts that you can find the time to do, and share them on Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word that we will NOT cease in our quest to banish the ignorance and stigma when it comes to maternal mental health matters.

Third, if we see a mom who is in need of support, reach out to her.  Ask her how she’s doing.  If she had a baby within the past year, tell her about PSI.  She just might benefit from speaking to someone on the PSI warm line or seek local PMAD resources.  Remember that  approximately one in eight new mothers will experience a PMAD.

Our mothers matter.  Our families matter. 

Do it for Miriam.

Do it for yourself.

Do it for all the other moms out there who have suffered, are currently suffering, and may someday find themselves suffering from a PMAD.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Maternal Matters

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

I felt like blogging tonight.  Partly to keep my mind preoccupied so I won’t be nerve wracked all night, worrying about a presentation I have to give at work tomorrow.  Some of you know that I absolutely HATE public speaking of any sort.  HATE.  😦

As my regular readers may have noticed, I don’t rant much any longer….I’ve mentioned before that my years of book writing and blogging have been EXTREMELY cathartic.  I mentioned in my last post that I will continue to share what I feel to be newsworthy developments in research and media that demonstrate a continued forward momentum in the mission to de-stigmatize postpartum mood disorders and provide mothers with the care that is so desperately needed and is yet so lacking, still.  I will also continue to share interesting tidbits I run across from my daily reading material that comes up in my Facebook news feed or elsewhere.

Tonight’s post shows how –despite valiant efforts in advocacy, public awareness and mother support on the part of many, some of whom I personally know–for every one step forward that’s made, there are forces out  there that are ever so ready to drag us two huge steps back.  I would like to highlight two examples of barriers to progress that were mentioned in news articles in the past couple of weeks.

FIRST ARTICLE
This week’s announcement of the closing of the Shuswap Family Resource Centre’s Mother’s Journey Prenatal and Postnatal Support Group in British Columbia, Canada, is an example of how, despite the known benefits of having a postpartum support group, establishing and maintaining such groups within communities that don’t observe social support customs and rituals when it comes to expectant and postpartum mothers has been an ongoing challenge, mostly due to lack of funding.  The postpartum support group offered mothers education (including self awareness and coping mechanisms) and support on 25-week open-ended cycles, meaning that mothers were able to freely join or leave at any point.  Despite the realization of the importance of such a postpartum support group by healthcare practitioners and the community, and the simple fact that there were so many PPD cases and not enough trained individuals to provide the needed care, this center is closing its doors for good.  Even while it was open, because there was no other support group like this anywhere in the area, PPD moms generally had to wait several weeks just to see someone.  If a couple of days felt like an eternity for me when I was in the depths of my PPD, having a mother wait several weeks is simply unacceptable.  Postpartum support groups should be opening, not closing, their doors to mothers!

We need more postpartum centers that focus on the needs of mothers and ensuring there is adequate support in the first one to three months after childbirth. Early intervention and women-centered health initiatives and programs and support services need to be the standard of care rather than the exception!

SECOND ARTICLE
The title of the article is “10 reasons why breastfeeding is out of fashion,” written by Beverly Turner in the The Telegraph.  I don’t get why women in media–or actually in this case a journalist who reminds me a lot of the other political developments that pop up in my Facebook news feed everyday that make me wonder how we could be in the 21st century and still be faced with so many anti-women initiatives (but I won’t go into there because I KNOW how right wing versus left wing thinking can terminate friendships at the snap of a finger, and this blog is not a political, feminist, or pro-choice versus pro-life blog) –want to be a barrier to progress for women?  What she wrote made me sit there and re-read certain parts of her article, all the while scratching my head and going “Huh?  I don’t get it.  This makes no sense whatsoever.  And she’s supposed to be a journalist?  This article is so poorly written!  How could she criticize other women when she doesn’t have a clue about their experiences?”

Now, as for her so-called ten points:

1.   “Lack of post-natal care to help women establish feeding pattern.”
Sure, we need an overall increase in the availability of postnatal and breastfeeding support for new moms in the first 3 months.

2.   “Lack of high-profile role models breastfeeding.  This is why I implore the Duchess of Cambridge to get out her royal orbs when she has her first next month.”
I actually think there are a good number of celebrities that have announced that they are breastfeeding, or breastfed, their babies.  Granted, there could be more, but we have more now talking about breastfeeding than ever before. Honestly, though, did she have to refer to the Duchess’ boobs as “royal orbs”….?!   Does she sound like a man, or is it just me?  From this point on, the article goes downhill very quickly…..never mind very quickly, try at warp speed.

3.    “Noisy loons creating ‘Brestapo’ caricatures to appease their own consciences.  These women are oddly vocal contingents, who bring their own neuroses to public forums shouting that women ‘shouldn’t be pressured…rather than helped (doh!). They are the same crowd who shout ‘women who have caesareans haven’t failed’! rather than, ‘what the hell is wrong with a system that is failing so many women’? It’s oddly misogynistic.”
WTF?  Hypocritical much? I don’t need to go into this in detail because the fabulous, er, Fearless Formula Feeder has already blogged about this in a brilliant letter addressed to this, er, so-called journalist.

Reasons 4-6 and 8-10 may make sense being included on this list but the points she makes for each are weakly written.  Not even worth mentioning, really.

4.    “Reluctance to give time to our babies.”
WTF WTF WTF?  This screams mommy war completely.  How does she know what each mother’s experience is like?   Get this woman a huge dose of empathy, STAT!  I wish people like her who’ve never known firsthand what it’s like to experience PPD or other postpartum mood disorder and/or serious breastfeeding challenges would just keep their flapping and condescending lips shut.

There is a correlation between success in breastfeeding and PPD occurrence, which is why I think it’s important that as many of us that have been there–suffering from PPD and/or experiencing breastfeeding difficulties, and having very little support for either–speak up and have our voices heard.  Because without our voices, we will forever be taking steps backward.  We want progress!  Mothers should support each other, not bash each other!

LET’S KEEP OUR FOCUS ON THE FOLLOWING:

  • End the mommy wars!
  • More breastfeeding support can increase breastfeeding success.
  • We need more postpartum support groups, not close their doors!
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!
  • Continue steps forward, no backward steps allowed!

2012 Postnatal Depression Awareness Week – It’s Not All Black and White (Australia)

November 18-24 is Postnatal Depression (PND) Awareness Week – It’s Not All Black and White in Australia.  This is an initiative organized by PANDA, the Post and Antenatal Depression Association, located in Victoria, Australia.  As you can see, I don’t just blog about postpartum depression (PPD) news/events in the U.S., because PPD is an illness that is suffered by women all over the world.  My post for last year’s Blogging for World Mental Health Day sums up why public awareness about PPD is so critical.  PPD isn’t black and white.  There are varying “shades” of PPD and there is actually a spectrum of perinatal (before/during/after) mood disorders.  Each  mom’s experience will be unique in terms of duration, treatment, and symptoms.

Here is an excerpt from my book on the spectrum of perinatal mood disorders, or the different “shades” of PPD, that make it so darn challenging to understand by the public and even healthcare professionals:

PPD can occur anytime within the first year after you give birth. It can start as early as a few days postpartum, but appears to occur most frequently around six to eight weeks postpartum. It has even been known to occur in mothers weaning their babies at two years postpartum. PPD often serves among writers on the topic as a catch-all phrase for the spectrum of perinatal mood disorders, or those mood disorders occurring before pregnancy (antepartum, antenatal, or prenatal), during pregnancy, and after childbirth (postpartum or postnatal). The spectrum of postpartum mood disorders includes postpartum anxiety, postpartum panic disorder, postpartum OCD, and postpartum psychosis.

Not everyone who suffers from PPD suffers the same symptoms. The extent to which women suffer from PPD varies and depends on the woman’s biological makeup and past experiences with stressors. PPD experiences range from bouts of crying, heightened anxiety, and fatigue to feeling completely unable to function and to the extreme cases of postpartum psychosis where the mother may hurt or even kill herself and/or her baby. My symptoms were, for the most part, physical rather than psychological. For example, I had no self-esteem issues, and baggage from the past did not resurface (e.g., unresolved issues with a parent’s death or departure during childhood, I have to be a better mother than mine was, etc.). I felt so anxious and unable to function that I could barely get myself to leave the house for my doctor’s appointments. My only symptoms were insomnia, high levels of anxiety, and panic attacks. I was always prone to worry more than the average person, but I had never had any panic attacks before. Hard to believe that my fear of never being able to fall asleep and stay asleep on my own, without medication, could drive my body to have panic attacks. I wanted to fall asleep, but didn’t want to take the Ambien so that I could prove to myself that the insomnia was temporary. When I couldn’t fall asleep, that led to my panic attacks, where my heart raced uncontrollably, my extremities would turn cold, and, when I woke up each morning, I’d be in a cold sweat. All this was so overwhelming.

And:

  • Women throughout the world suffer from PPD, but just as one woman’s genetics, physiology, life experiences, and coping strategies are unique to her, one woman’s PPD experience will vary from the next woman in terms of the triggers, symptoms, severity, reaction to medication and/or therapy, and duration. The way everyone reacts to things like fatigue, stress, and lack of support is unique.
  • A woman may experience PPD for one but not all of her pregnancies.
  • PPD symptoms may differ from one episode to the next.
  • A woman who has suffered from nonpregnancy depression in the past can experience very different symptoms with PPD.
  • There is a wide range of possible symptoms.
  • The timing of the onset of symptoms varies, ranging from a couple of weeks to several months to as late as two years postpartum. Most cases begin six to eight weeks postpartum, though it can begin up to a year postpartum, and even as late as two years after childbirth due to weaning.
  • Recognizing the onset of PPD can be difficult due to the fact that such symptoms as mood swings, tearfulness, irritability, and anxiety are also symptoms of the baby blues.
  • Some amount of stress, anxiety, irritability, hypersensitivity, difficulty sleeping, and exhaustion (mental and physical) are considered normal consequences of having a brand-new baby to take care of. If you tell your doctor or another parent that you’re anxious and having trouble sleeping, he or she will look at you and say, “What new parent can sleep? It’s perfectly normal to feel some amount of anxiety.” Not being able to sleep at all even when the baby sleeps and you are utterly exhausted is insomnia, and you need to drive that point home.
  • Even women who had smooth pregnancies and deliveries, with no history of emotional problems or depression, can also develop PPD.
  • Fathers can also develop PPD.
  • Adoptive parents can also develop PPD.

Now, do you get why the tagline is so perfect for this awareness campaign?!

It gives me hope whenever I see a U.S. state–or in this case, a different country–acknowledge that PPD is a real illness and the stigma surrounding it must be combated through public awareness campaigns to educate the public about an illness that strikes in as many as 20% of new mothers.  Last year, Postpartum Support International declared May National Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month with a “Speak Up When You’re Down” Campaign, an awareness campaign dedicated to increasing support for pregnant and postpartum women and their families here in the U.S.  Certain states like California (CA Perinatal Mental Health Awareness Month), Oregon (Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month), and Illinois (Perinatal Mood Disorders Awareness Month) have passed legislation declaring May a month dedicated to educating the public of the resources/treatment programs available to women and their families should they experience a perinatal mood disorder, as well as reducing stigma associated with maternal mental health.  Other states like New Jersey and Massachusetts have passed legislation relating to public awareness, screening, research, and support services.

Now, getting back to the Land Down Under, there are some wonderful PPD bloggers and their blog posts in support of Postnatal Depression Awareness Week.  I’d like to highlight fellow alumna Debra Dane and her blog post, who does a great job explaining why this awareness week has the tagline of “It’s not all black and white,” and my friend Yuz Rozenblum’s Not Just About Wee blog post.

If you look at the end of each of these two blog posts, you will see all the posts written by other PPD mamas.  Please check them out!  For moms currently suffering from PPD, you are NOT alone.

Please Tune in to PBS Special on PPD – Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A quick post tonight.  I have 6 posts I want to work on, but want to be sure I get this out tonight, as tomorrow night is the debut of the PBS special “Healthbeat.”  Tune in 10:30 PM EST and watch Emmy Award-winning journalist Sara Lee Kessler as she travels around the country interviewing individuals behind postpartum depression (PPD) programs and research.  Click here to read more and for a more complete listing of the television channels that will be airing the show.

Among those interviewed include Dr. Katherine Wisner, a renowned researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Dr. David Rabinow, Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, and Chris Raines, RN of the UNC inpatient perinatal psychiatry unit, about which I blogged a couple times previously.  Commentaries will be provided by various medical/mental health professionals, like Susan Stone (author of the Perinatal Pro blog), who specialize in treating PPD patients.  I’m particularly excited because I have had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Katherine Wisner and Dr. David Rabinow at past Postpartum Support International conferences, and I’ve met and chatted with Chris Raines.

Among the programs that will be looked at include New Jersey’s Speak Up When You’re Down and New Jersey’s maternal and child health consortia–yet another reason why I am looking forward to watching this television special!

I hope you will join me in watching this show that will be sure to educate the public on the current state of PPD research and programs, those dedicated to helping moms and their families struggling with a postpartum mood disorder, as well as those dedicated to breaking down the barriers that have existed for far too long.

Treating Moms Well Facebook Page – Contest

CONTEST (now until March 23, 2012, 12:00 AM CST): ***Win a $50.00 Target Gift Card!***

Are you a Mom? A Dad? A survivor of a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder? A friend or supporter of anyone who fits any of these descriptions? If so, please join us in spreading awareness of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and help us have a successful 5th annual Treating Moms Well Fundraiser!

Treating Moms Well was established in 2008 to create awareness about Pospartum Depression (PPD) and to raise funds to help women who would otherwise lack access to lifesaving PPD services.

To participate, follow these steps:

1. Think of a short sentence that describes how you felt in the early weeks and months of parenthood: e.g. “I felt overwhelmed and exhausted,” “I felt like my greatest dream had come true!”, or even “It felt like my whole life had been turned upside down and I didn’t recognize myself.” If you are not a parent and would like to share an observation in honor of someone you know (or you would like to share but remain anonymous), you can say tell us how you felt to see your friend/family member going through early parenthood. For example, you might say, “I felt so proud of the way she managed her stress.” “It felt like there was nothing I could do to stop her suffering.” “It felt like she could do things so effortlessly.” Please keep your statement in the “I felt/It felt” format.

2.Share this message with every one of your Facebook friends by clicking “Share” at the bottom of this post, and include your statement at the top. You can also cut and paste this as a message and send to all of your friends. The more you share this with your friends, the stronger your chance of winning!

3. Post your statement in the comment section directly below the Contest #1 Post on the Treating Moms Well Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/TreatingMomsWell.  The commenter who receives the most “likes” wins the prize!

***Note: You do not have to live in the Chicago area to participate. Contest will expire on Wednesday, March 23rd at 12:00pm CST.

Developing Systemic Solutions to Postpartum Depression

One of two real quickie posts from me today, and I never post 2 at the same time!   Thanks to Twitter, I am in better shape news-wise than before, that’ s for sure! 

Back in August 2010, a bill referred to as “An Act Relative to Postpartum Depression” was passed and went into effect in Massachusetts. Click here for my previous post on this.  Today, there was a Boston Globe article titled “All mothers need to be screened for postpartum depression” posted by Marjorie Pritchard that provides an update on the state’s progress.  Although funding for the heart of the bill–universal screening and public awareness initiatives–has been practically non-existent, progress is being made that includes the state Department of Public Health issuing regulations on best practices and data collection for screening. 

Additionally, the mission of a 34-person Commission chaired by Emily Story (Democratic state representative from Amherst), and made up of health care providers, insurance representatives, survivors, legislators and state agency representatives–among many others–is to come up with best practices in screening/referrals/treatment, public awareness, and education of healthcare professionals.  Basically, the development of systemic solutions to postpartum depression so desperately needed to help women and their families get the help they need when it comes to an illness that strikes so many new mothers.

It’s certainly encouraging to see such progress–albeit slow and steeped with challenges (in the form of funding and the state of the economy and health insurance)–in Massachusetts.  Before the end of this decade, I’d like to see all 50 states working to achieve the same goals with respect to maternal (and family) well-being !