Hillary and the Future of Maternal Mental Health

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

momma-mosaic-postpartum-depression-baby-blues

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.