Birth Matters: A Collaborative Research Project Exploring Birth Trauma

trauma; traumatic

The most humbling part of being a staff member at Postpartum Progress is meeting moms and hearing their stories. Whether a mom is newly diagnosed, or is recovered from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder there is something special about being entrusted with her story.

The more I listen the more I notice common themes; many women tell me about events during pregnancy or birth they consider to be traumatic. These often contribute to their later diagnosis of postpartum depression, anxiety or another mental health concern.

One of most common issues that comes up is birth trauma. So many of our moms experience something traumatic that leaves them feeling scared and alone. And trauma doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Trauma can occur if your wants and needs are ignored and you are treated without respect. Poor communication from your doctor that leaves you uncertain about your health or that of your baby can be traumatic. Protracted labor, poor pain management, medical interventions, emergency c-section, a baby in distress, a stay in the NICU; any of these can be traumatic and each of us responds differently.

Because responses to childbirth can vary from very positive to negative and traumatic, Postpartum Progress is teaming up with Dr. Sharon Dekel from Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital to collect information about emotional responses to childbirth. We want to learn about different reactions to childbirth, why they happen, and what their long-term impacts to mom and baby are.

We want to survey as many women as possible, with all kinds of childbirth experiences – to find out what is the emotional impact of childbirth on women.  Our goal is to know how we can help women overcome their negative experiences and improve positive ones. This information can help to develop assessment and prevention tools for traumatic childbirth reactions.

No matter your birth experience, if you are at least 18 years old and have had a baby in the past six months can take our survey. It is completely anonymous and will take about 20 minutes to finish.

Together we can start to better understand and treat traumatic birth experiences.  Click here to find out more about the survey and to participate!

Mental Health in Color Initiative: Training Scholarships

mental health in color initiativeResearch shows people often feel more comfortable seeking help from someone who looks like them. We know that Black moms suffering from symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety face unique challenges. The Postpartum Progress mission includes ALL women and for that reason we have established strategic goals around addressing the very vulnerable women who are not being served by a discriminating system. Most recently we have created tools to empower women of color:

Being seen and heard without the roadblocks of judgment and bias are important in obtaining recovery for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Often the racial differences between client and provider can make an already difficult process even more difficult. All of these providers are also women, because we believe in the unique power and ability for women to help one another.

Postpartum Progress seeks to change the landscape of maternal mental health for women of color by investing in what they need to be well. We are allocating funds to give training scholarships to mental health providers of color who are interested in expanding their professional expertise into maternal mental health. We will provide $2500 each to 4 scholarship recipients to fund their continued education via any one of the specific training programs we’ve chosen. Those training programs include the Postpartum Stress Center’s 12-Hour Post Graduate Training, Postpartum Support International’s 2-day Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder Certificate Training and the Seleni Institute’s 2-day Maternal Mental Health Intensive. We do this with the sole expectation that funding the training of more mental health providers of color to become specialists in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders will improve the standard of care for everyone.

“We know there’s a massive shortage of mental health providers who are specialists in maternal mental health, but that shortage grows a hundredfold when it comes to providers of color. We want the mothers in our community to have access to the help they need, which is why we’re so pleased to be able to launch this scholarship program in 2016 to four Black mental health providers,” said Katherine Stone, founder and CEO of Postpartum Progress Inc. “As our operating budget grows, it’s our goal to be able to offer even more scholarships in the future and to extend them to providers serving marginalized Latinas, the Asian Pacific Islander community and more. And we would ask any entity willing to match our expenditure to join us in this program so that we can expand the number of people who can provide the best care for struggling mothers.”

If you are interested in being considered for Postpartum Progress’ Mental Health in Color 2016 scholarships, please make sure you meet all of the qualifications below. If so, please complete and submit this form by Tuesday, November 22nd. We will choose all of our applicants by December 12th. 

QUALIFICATIONS

  • You identify as a cis woman, femme, or trans woman
  • You identify as belonging to the Black/African Diaspora and are committed to the well-being of Black people living in the United States.
  • You are a licensed mental health professional or are a candidate for licensure in your state within the next 3 months.
  • You intend to work with women in their childbearing years and are interested in addressing health disparities for communities of color.
  • You have a working knowledge of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or you are motivated to learn more about them, their impact and treat the women in your community who have them.

For more information or assistance with applying please contact Jasmine Banks at climbout@postpartumprogress.org

Warrior Mom Strong with Cotton Babies

Image: Cotton BabiesOnly a few weeks ago, almost 200 Warrior Moms recently joined together in Atlanta for the 2nd Annual Warrior Mom® Conference, showing the world they are #warriormomstrong, thanks to the support of companies like Cotton Babies.

Inspired by our courageous community, Cotton Babies not only debuted a new video (which has already reached over 82,500 people with its message of hope), but they also brought along samples of their brand new line of clothes and gifts, STRONG. Cotton Babies is a great friend to us here at Postpartum Progress. They support our mission and our work, and they were one of the very first to sponsor the Warrior Mom Conference®.

I had the honor and pleasure of attending the conference this year and last year. I’ve seen what #WarriorMomStrong is. It’s women buying tickets for something that is almost a year away in the hope that they will learn more, create stronger connections, and be better able to help other mamas in their communities.

It is moms with anxiety reaching through the fear and out to each other. It is pictures taken on airplanes by women who are shaking, but resolved. It is pictures taken in cars packed with moms making this journey together.

image: Amy DinglerThis is the strength that comes from finally seeing in person a sister you made online. It is strength born of tears on shoulders and the tightest of hugs.

#WarriorMomStrong is also some women realizing that they were not ready to be with us, for many different reasons. It is women giving up their tickets and wishing us well from afar. We felt you.

Strength like this is generous. It is the generosity of time – of volunteers and of attendees who constantly ask, “How can I help you? What do you need?”

Strength like this is brave. It is speaking your truth to a room of almost 200 women.

It is kind. It is offering a shoulder, or a hug, or a handkerchief.

It is bold. It is telling the stranger in the elevator what conference you are in the hotel for, and doing it with your head held high.

It creates a sisterhood. It is groups of warrior moms spreading all over Atlanta to get tattoos and others going just to hold their hands.

credit: Miranda WickerI am still amazed at the strength of warrior moms. For some this was the very first time they had ever left their children, or been on an airplane, or met the people they were roommates with, or ridden public transportation, or been to any type of conference at all. Being surrounded by these women for a few days in October has given me the strength to come home and fight on. It has fueled my fire.

At Postpartum Progress, we are proud to be #WarriorMomStrong and grateful to Cotton Babies for seeing our courage and supporting our work to help all moms feel like the good moms they are. Tell us what makes you or someone you love #WarriorMomStrong, and don’t forget to check out the STRONG gift series from Cotton Babies.

 

Image Credit – Cotton Babies

Image Credit – Amy Dingler Photography

Image Credit – Miranda Wicker

Raising Awareness of Stillbirth: A Mother’s Story

2 Degrees FoundationWe’re so happy to welcome Debbie Haine Vijayvergyia to the blog today, sharing her story in honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Debbie is the co-founder of Action for Stillbirth Awareness & Prevention and the 2 Degrees Foundation.  If you have experienced a loss, please know this post might be triggering. 

Since I was a young girl, the only thing that I was 100% certain of was that one day I would become a mom. As a little girl, I fondly remember playing with all of my baby dolls, always pretending to be “the mommy.” Not once was I ever given a reason to believe that the whole process of becoming a mother would be remotely difficult.

Fast forward 30 years.

My first pregnancy was easy and uneventful. However, a week after my daughter was born I came down with a late presentation of Group B Strep which nearly killed me.  I can’t lie, it wasn’t pretty but I got through it. Many people would often ask me if I would consider having more children after such a traumatic post birth experience. I was always a little surprised by this question, but of course I would reply, one day.

A year later I suffered my first miscarriage. I made peace with it, acknowledging that our daughter was still very young and that waiting another year would be better for everyone. I never once worried about what my future pregnancy outcomes would look like. The following year I suffered my second miscarriage which was a much tougher pill to swallow. I was 8 weeks along when I started spotting. Ultrasounds showed the baby’s heart beating strong and my OB decided to put me on bed rest hoping that maybe a little time with my feet up was all I needed. Unfortunately the spotting became heavier and my pain intensified over a couple of weeks. I felt like a ticking time bomb and one night the bomb went off. It resulted in an ambulance ride, 10 hours in the ER, and a broken heart. At that point I didn’t think things could get any worse.

The next year I was pregnant yet again. I was anxious but at the same time, I was feeling great and was confident that everything was going to be ok. As silly as it may sound, at this point, I convinced myself that I had been through enough and had “paid my dues” to the fertility gods. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case; at a routine 2nd trimester checkup my obstetrician could not detect my baby’s heartbeat. There are no words to describe the overwhelming sense of devastation I felt. I was broken. Life would never, could ever be the same.

Six weeks later, our autopsy report showed us that our daughter’s umbilical cord had collapsed, which resulted in her oxygen source being cut off. My doctor informed us that this was extremely uncommon, like being struck by lightning, as he tried to ease our anxiety when discussing the idea of a subsequent pregnancy.

Stillbirth is defined as a fetus that dies during the 20th week of gestation or later, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I think that up until this time I had heard the word stillbirth or stillborn used maybe once or twice. I honestly couldn’t understand how my low-risk, healthy pregnancy had ended this way.

I learned the hard way that stillbirth isn’t as uncommon as we are led to believe. The fact is that stillbirth causes approximately 26,000 deaths a year in the United States — that is approximately 71 babies a day (2000 each month). Even with numbers like these, stillbirth remains one of the most understudied and underfunded public health issues today.

After losing my daughter Autumn, it took me a very long time to come to terms with our new reality. The only way that I could make any sense of our heartbreaking tragedy was to give it a purpose. I couldn’t sit by and let others suffer like we had, I felt compelled to help them. I have since become heavily involved in stillbirth advocacy and work on a daily basis to create more awareness around stillbirth and improve outcomes.

Almost exactly a year to the date that I brought our sweet sleeping girl into the world, I delivered a healthy beautiful boy. My son gives me so much hope; not just for myself but for others.

I have to believe that with hope we will be able to discover why stillbirths occur and how we can begin to prevent them. Hope will help us overcome the stigma associated with stillbirth. Hope will put stillbirth on the map so that it gains the recognition that it deserves.

Whatever you do, please don’t give up, you’re not alone. We can do this together- the more we talk about it the less it can be ignored. #pregnancyandinfantlossawarenessmonth #stillbirthawareness #stillbornstillmatters #the2degreesfoundation #breakthesilence #endstillbirths