We are a mosaic

We are a mosaic

The birth of my first child was traumatic.  Because of a medical misdiagnosis, I was catapulted from a “normal, healthy” pregnancy into a maelstrom of fear, exhaustion and chaos that was beyond my wildest nightmare. Looking back, it seemed I had done everything right. I innocently read the industry standard of pregnancy books, went to pre-natal yoga class, attended birthing classes and, armed with my birth plan and my copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting, my life was turned upside down. I became one of the hundreds of thousands of women who annually slip through the cracks in the U.S. maternity care system and suffered silently with postpartum depression.  

One out of every seven new mothers suffers from postpartum depression. The catch is that while postpartum depression is the most common obstetrical complication in the U.S., (with more cases than breast cancer or gestational diabetes) it is also the least diagnosed.  Translation: there are a lot of unhappy new mothers in our country that no one is helping.  Why is it so common? And why is it so unlikely to be diagnosed? Important questions with very simple answers: because no one is watching for it and as a society, we are conditioned to believe that “mothers know best” and any divergence from the unrealistic standard of the perfection or “myth” of motherhood is shameful.  Studies have shown that an estimated 50% of new mothers are suffering silently from postpartum depression due to cultural stereotypes and stigmas which prevent them from speaking up and getting the help they need and deserve.

The pressure for mothers in the U.S. to be Facebook-ready within hours of giving birth is no more present than it is today. We are a media-saturated culture obsessed with maternity clothes, accessories and baby goods, but when it comes to new motherhood, our country falls short and our mothers are paying the price. Mothers are our greatest asset.  And we as a country need to do a better job of taking care of them. As the number one complication surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, rates of postpartum depression are reaching epidemic proportions and we can no longer afford to sit quietly on the sidelines. It is easily treatable but we must speak up and act now.  

What can we do?

  1. Speak up. Tell your story.  
  2. Talk to your care giver — be it your obstetrician, midwife, general practitioner or therapist and tell them how you are feeling.
  3. Reach out to new mothers you know — friends, family, coworkers —and let them know they are not alone.
  4. Contact your local state and city representative and tell them to stand with mothers and offer universal screening for everyone.
  5. Research your options and be sure to make an informed decision about your birth choices.  The U.S. has the highest rate of postpartum depression in the world.  Studies have shown that births attended by a midwife (for a normal healthy pregnancy) are less likely to have complications for mother and baby. Furthermore, doulas provide essential support for mothers before, during and after childbirth. Hospital interventions such as epidurals and labor induction have been linked to complications in delivery and mother-baby bonding immediately after birth. A difficult birth puts the mother at-risk for postpartum depression.  
  6. Know the triggers ahead of time: have a support system in place, choose a reliable birthing partner (doula, spouse, family member, partner, friend), inform yourself of your rights, check your family history for depression, get as much sleep as possible, make sure to eat and stay hydrated, and if possible arrange for maternity leave.

Women deserve to have the best care no matter where they are on the spectrum of motherhood. We speak as a nation about how children are the future, and indeed this is true, but if our mothers are not healthy and happy how can we expect their children to be?  Ironically, in the United States, we as women have some of the greatest opportunities and rights available to us, yet we are plagued with one of the worst maternity care systems in the world. In an age where politicians, legislators, health care companies and corporate entities are in increasing control, it is more crucial than ever to talk and share our stories.  We must not let the corporatizing of our maternity care system break us.  Our stories form a mosaic. What can feel so deeply personal and isolating is in fact more universal than we realize. Postpartum depression is easily treatable but we have to speak up. We need to stand together as mothers, sisters, daughters, friends. If we all shared our story, imagine how big the mosaic would be. 

 

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week

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Today marks the first day of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week (May 1-7, 2017). As a Partner in this week-long campaign, I am proud to see the progress in the field of maternal mental health and to be a voice in the movement towards better maternity care in our country. 

When I became a mother eleven years ago I was catapulted into the unknown. Lost amidst a confusing maze of trauma, depression and exhaustion. Three years would go by before I was diagnosed with back-to-back undiagnosed postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. No one tells you that this fragile bubble of new motherhood isn’t always the perfect greeting card we want it to be. Or that it has the potential to burst without anybody seemingly noticing. 

Now, with social media, we have the power to amplify our voices, to share our experiences, to begin normalizing the conversation and lifting the paralyzing stigma associated with mental health and the myth of the "perfect" mother. Mothers are everything. We all know one, we all have one, many of us are one. Let’s join together and be part of the conversation for better maternity care. 

March for Moms

March for Moms, Mother's Day 2017

Yes! The March for Moms is happening this Mothers Day (May 14) in Washington, DC. Will you join?

For the first time in history, consumers, healthcare providers and maternal health organizations come together with the sole purpose of shedding light on the poor state of the U.S. maternity care system.

More and More Celebrities are Talking About PPD

So great to see more and more women including Adele, Chrissy Teigen and Brooke Shields speaking up about their struggles with postpartum depression. It's the #1 complication associated with pregnancy and childbirth and it's ok to speak up and get help!

Via TIME.com

Hillary and the Future of Maternal Mental Health

Hillary Clinton

As I sit here listening to Bernie Sanders endorse Hillary Clinton for President, I hear a lot of cheering for the Democrats plan to revise healthcare in America and I have to wonder what Hillary would do as President in the area of maternal mental health.  

Over the years we have heard her talk about healthcare as First Lady, as Senator of New York, and as Presidential candidate.  Recently we have heard her talk about new motherhood -- both through the eyes of her daughter Chelsea but also as a new grandmother.  She speaks about wanting her granddaughter Charlotte to grow up in a just and fair world where all girls and women have all of the chances that boys and men do.  

On her website, Clinton states that she will work to provide working parents paid maternity/family leave (up to 12 weeks) to care for a new baby.  And that she will work to provide home visiting services by a social worker or a nurse to more than 2 million parents and children in the next ten years.  What about postpartum depression, the number one complication of all pregnancy and childbearing mothers in the country? No mother can function properly in any capacity if they are suffering. We need a more comprehensive look at women's health and to take better care of our mothers and new families. 

Hillary tweeted last spring from New Hampshire, "Everything we need to do in our country really starts with how we treat our children." We agree, Hillary.  So let's give our children the best start in life by making sure their mothers are healthy and happy.  

Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues

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Having a baby is stressful—no matter how much you've looked forward to it or how much you love your child. The baby blues are perfectly normal, but if your symptoms don’t go away after a few weeks or get worse, you may have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can interfere with your ability to take care of your child, so it’s important to get help right away. With treatment and support, you can get back on the road to happy motherhood.

The baby blues

You’ve just had a baby. You expected to be basking in new mom bliss. You expected to be celebrating the arrival of your little one with your friends and family. But instead of celebrating, you feel like crying. You were prepared for joy and excitement, not exhaustion, anxiety, and weepiness.

You may not have been expecting it, but mild depression and mood swings are common in new mothers—so common, in fact, that it has its own name: the baby blues.

The vast majority of new mothers experience at least some symptoms of the baby blues, including moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes, concentration problems. Symptoms of the baby blues typically show up within a few days of giving birth and last from several days to a couple of weeks.

The baby blues are a normal part of new motherhood—probably caused by the hormonal changes that occur following birth. If you have them, there is no cause for undue worry. You’ll feel better once your hormones level out. Aside from the support of your loved ones and plenty of rest, no treatment is necessary.

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression

Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression is a more serious problem—one that you shouldn’t ignore. However, it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two.

In the beginning, postpartum depression can look like the normal baby blues. In fact, postpartum depression and the baby blues share many symptoms, including mood swings, crying jags, sadness, insomnia, and irritability. The difference is that with postpartum depression, the symptoms are more severe (such as suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for your newborn) and longer lasting.

After Baby is Born: Postpartum Depression and Relationships

By Gina Shaw on WebMD

When Tina Merritt gave birth to her son Graham six years ago, she expected what all new mothers expect: a joyous experience getting to know her baby. Instead, she found that she was terrified of her own child.

“I came home and I cried for hours straight. I was afraid that somebody would leave me alone with this baby that I had no clue how to take care of,” she recalls.

Stricken with the fear that she would be an incompetent mother, Merritt went back to work when Graham was 6 weeks old, ceding most of the baby’s care to her husband and the grandparents.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to take care of him -- I just thought they were better at it,” she says. “I felt like I couldn’t do it right. My husband knew something was wrong, and he picked up the pieces. He just thought, OK, I need to step up to the plate and be a responsible husband.”

Merritt, who now lives in southern California, wouldn’t learn the truth until her son was more than 2 years old: she was suffering from postpartum depression (PPD). Between 10% and 20% of women who have recently given birth experience PPD, but like Merritt, more than half of them go undiagnosed.