Guest Author - Lisa Polovin Pinkus
Statistics show that 10-20% of expecting mothers experience depression. Between 15 and 20% of new moms will develop postpartum depression and may also experience obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or postpartum psychosis.
Experts believe these perinatal and postpartum mood disorder numbers are even higher due to the large number of unreported cases. Scan the Internet and you will find organizations offering their support, as well as testimonies from women who have suffered from one of these disorders.
What is most important, however, are not the numbers and statistics but that a mom (or a dad – dads can experience postpartum depression as well – and can definitely be impacted by a mom experiencing it) reaches out for help and support.
It may be one of the most difficult things she will ever have to do. It is unnerving, embarrassing, humiliating, and moms can feel overwhelmed and perplexed by thoughts she feels cannot be overcome.
Most of us are familiar with postpartum depression, and thanks to actress Brooke Shields, many women are more comfortable reaching out for help. The perinatal mood disorders, which occur during pregnancy or through the first year of a child’s life, are becoming more well known and talked about.
During pregnancy and throughout the first year of a child’s life, a mother with a perinatal mood disorder may experience depression and anxiety, postpartum panic disorder, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, or postpartum psychosis. The absence of help and support can lead to long term and unfavorable consequences for the mother, her child, and the relationship with her partner.
There are many good resources online, and their presence shows us how prevalent this issue is. But, the plethora of options also shows us the seriousness of the problem.
American Pregnancy Association The APA has a listing of counselor referrals on their website. They also provide moms with natural treatment options such as getting the right amount of sleep, exercising, and eating right. All moms need to pay attention to their self-care, but a mother who is battling postpartum or perinatal issues needs to be even more diligent.
Postpartum Doula A doula is a labor coach who offers support to women in labor. A postpartum doula continues the support after the birth of a child. She helps new moms adjust to breastfeeding, provides emotional and physical support after birth, will frequently do light housekeeping and errands, and provide newborn care – diapering, bathing, feeding, and comforting. This is a good option for families that have the financial ability. It will help alleviate some of the stress that mom is feeling and allow her to care for herself without worrying about who is caring for the baby.
Statewide Resources Many states have recognized the need to provide support to new and expectant mothers beyond the physical care that most women receive. The state of Arizona, for example, has a Pregnancy and Postpartum Warm Line (888-434-MOMS). Callers leave a message and a trained volunteer who has been through the experience will return your call. The warmline offers support and referrals in the state of Arizona.
According to its website, Postpartum Support International was founded to “increase awareness among public and professional communities about the emotional changes that women experience during pregnancy and postpartum”. Their mission “to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide” is evident by the easy to navigate website filled with resources, information, and help for moms, their friends, and their families. 1-800-944-4PPD
Jenny’s Light Jenny’s Light is an organization whose mission is to “improve and save lives by increasing awareness of all perinatal mood disorders.” Jenny’s light was founded by the family of Jenny Gibbs Bankston after she tragically took her newborn son’s life and then her own. The family hopes to prevent other families from going through this experience. Their website (below) lists many resources across the United States and in Canada. The site also offers stories from survivors and grants for organizations who want to further their support work for perinatal disorders.
Mommies Cry Too is a peer to peer website created by two women who experienced PPD when their children were born. They both came through difficult journeys and are now creating a safe haven for women to reach out and support each other. They list signs and symptoms on their website to help mothers determine whether or not they need to seek additional help. They also have referrals such as the Mayo Clinic, online support groups, and other postpartum blogs.
Postpartum and perinatal mood disorders do not only affect moms. Resources for fathers also exist. Postpartum Men helps fathers who are experiencing postpartum depression themselves. Postpartum Dads serves fathers who have been or are being impacted by a perinatal mood disorder.
Postpartum and perinatal mood disorders are not something to be swept under the rug. They can evolve into something very serious, including threatening the lives of people we love. If you suspect someone you care about is suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, or if you think that you might be – please reach out for help.
What I’ve learned is that it can be overcome, and proper support and guidance is essential!
Mommies Cry Too