Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

BabyCenter Finds PPD Moms Don’t Seek Help Due To Guilt & Shame

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BABYCENTERBabyCenter®, the number one pregnancy and parenting digital resource, recently asked 1,400 moms about their experience with postpartum depression and found that 40% said they didn’t seek medical help for their illness. Their reasons for avoiding reaching out for help included feeling like they should or did have the strength to get over the feelings without a doctor’s help (30 percent), believing their symptoms weren’t serious enough (25 percent), or feeling too much embarrassment (24 percent) and guilt (23 percent).

 “This study revealed serious findings that need to be addressed,” says Linda Murray, BabyCenter Global Editor in Chief. “Depression is dangerous for women and their babies, and untreated depression can become worse and lead to other complications. Depression affects people from all walks of life, but new moms are particularly susceptible given the stress of becoming a parent, lack of sleep, and hormonal changes. We want moms to understand that seeking help for PPD isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed about; in fact, it’s one of the most important things they can do for the well-being of their babies.”

Postpartum Progress is thrilled that BabyCenter put its resources behind taking a deeper look at postpartum depression and how it affects women. It’s so important to understand the barriers that prevent moms from seeking treatment to get the help they need. It stands out to me that the results of the survey found in particular that women felt they should be able to get over PPD themselves or that their symptoms weren’t serious enough to need professional help — those are beliefs we can effectively change by raising awareness about this illness and how it can affect both mom and baby when untreated.

In response to the findings of their study and to lend support to the cause of maternal mental health, BabyCenter is now graciously allowing me to blog regularly on their site to shed additional light on PPD and remind new and expecting moms that there is no shame in feelings of anxiety or depression. If you are experiencing PPD, please know that getting treated as soon as possible is important. Please go check out my very first post on BabyCenter: Asking for Help for PPD: Failure or Fierceness?

“I can’t stress enough that PPD is treatable, but only if moms ask for help,” says psychologist Susan Bartell. “It can be hard, but moms don’t need to be afraid to seek support during this difficult time. And it’s important for moms to remember that help comes in many forms ranging from friends who simply fold your laundry to therapy.”

About BabyCenter

BabyCenter® is the voice of the 21st Century Mom® and modern motherhood. It’s the number one pregnancy and parenting digital destination worldwide, reaching more than 40 million moms monthly in 11 languages across 14 owned and operated properties from Australia to India to China. In the United States, 7 in 10 babies born last year were BabyCenter babies. BabyCenter is the world’s partner in parenting, providing moms everywhere with trusted advice from hundreds of experts around the globe, friendship with other moms like them, and support that’s remarkably right at every stage of their child’s development. BabyCenter is a member of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies.

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Mental Illness & The Tyranny of Forms

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postpartum depression formsI was recently contacted by a Warrior Mom, one who sought and received treatment for her PPD as one should, who had to fill out some forms for something that is very important to her family.  As she was filling out one particular form she came to this question:

“If either applicant has received treatment for a nervous or mental disorder, explain and attach.”

She told me how much she was concerned and even upset by the question, noting it made her experience with maternal mental illness feel worse to her somehow. She was afraid to answer truthfully as though it meant she might not be worthy of what she was seeking.

Ahhhh, the tyranny of forms. There’s nothing that makes me stop and pause like having to filling out an important form — often one required by some agency of government — for me to get something I want or really need, and arriving at ye olde mental illness question.

Why are they asking me this? What business is it of theirs? Why do I have to explain to anyone that I have suffered anxiety and then explain and attach? When you say attach, exactly how much of my experience do I need to explain to you?

ANDPLUSALSO, why the hell does this question seem to come up adjacent to the section where I’m asked if  I’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?

Do these form making people not know that my mental illness — anxiety/OCD — is just an illness?

I notice that none of these forms ask me if I’ve ever had strep throat (yes). Or hepatitis (yes, but not the dangerous one). Or mononucleosis (yes). I haven’t had to explain and attach a list of the surgeries and hospitalizations I’ve received (3 for my spine and 2 outpatient for kidney stones, plus 2 babies, thank you very much). No one has requested a dissertation from me on that time I got pleurisy.

You get the point. When you ask someone a question about mental illness on an important form, what you are saying-without-saying is that it’s a problem. Mental illness is different. Separate. You have a problem. You yourself may be a problem. It’s inferred loud and clear.

I notice no one asks me the good things about myself on these forms — not whether I got good grades, or am a nice person, or if I volunteer or am helpful to others. When you only ask if I’ve ever done anything bad on this form and then you also ask me about mental illness, it’s like you’re saying, “Wink, wink and all, but if you answer yes to this question then you may be an issue. You may not get what you’re trying to get, which you may still 100% deserve. We’ve now got a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to you and what you’re asking for. It’s a crapshoot from this point on.”

I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. I think it’s unfair and also crappy. And I don’t deserve it. Yes, I sure as hell have received treatment for a mental disorder, and you sure as hell have have no business stigmatizing me, ESPECIALLY when you are a federal or state government which spends gobs of money on reducing stigma!

And don’t get me wrong, I realize in certain cases this question needs to be asked. You want to make sure I’m not in a position where I might do harm to myself or others. But why not ask me that then? Or some other question? Why ask the blanket “Have you ever received treatment for a mental disorder?” as though all of us are lurking around the corner ready to pounce?

I recently attended an event at the Scattergood Foundation where we talked about trauma informed care. It’s all about the idea that you shouldn’t re-victimize people who are already victims. We were taking a look at a variety of forms that elderly in poverty in the Philadelpia area would need to fill out to access much-needed services, and we were asked to redesign those forms using the principles of trauma informed care. How hard are they to fill out? How will the people filling them out feel or be impacted by the questions they’re asked? Will they decide not to fill out the form to get something they truly need because they are afraid of answering?

As described by the Trauma Informed Care Project, “Becoming ‘trauma-informed’ means recognizing that people often have many different types of trauma in their lives. People who have been traumatized need support and understanding from those around them. Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and community service providers.” Yes. A million times over, yes. I see this happen to mothers with maternal mental illness so often. I’ve watched women suffer the PTSD in that sixth stage of PPD for years after they fully recovered from the PPD itself precisely because of that kind of lack of understanding and application of trauma informed care in every corner of this nation and the world.

The exercise at Scattergood was fascinating and it made me think about how often mothers are traumatized by the questions they are asked. Every form, script, brochure and communication needs a good going-over, and not by people who are healthcare experts but by the women who have lived experience. I know one of the reasons for Postpartum Progress’ success is that we’ve always operated from a position of trauma informed principles, mainly because we are survivors ourselves and we know how crucial it is to connect in an authentic, understanding and trustworthy way with each mom who struggles.  Still, we have a long way to go.

Photo credit: © bst2012 – Fotolia.com

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WTFP?!: Why Access To Women’s Healthcare Matters

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Recently, on a Thursday, I went to have my annual physical exam. I was completely shocked when, during the breast exam, my gynecologist found a lump. Just a few days later, on Tuesday, I had a diagnostic mammogram. I was sure they’d come in the room right after the mammogram and say all was well, but after looking at the mammogram results the radiologist decided to immediately give me an ultrasound. I was sure he’d come in after the ultrasound and say all was well, but instead he told me I needed a biopsy. Two days after that, on Thursday, I underwent a core biopsy on my right breast. And the next day, Friday, I received the results. I have a benign fibroadenoma. In a little more than a week I was able to get several different exams and find out what was going on inside my body and have a plan for moving forward. And THAT, my friends, is how women’s health should go all the time. We should all have access to the information we need. The tests we need. The trained and competent physicians we need. The supplies we need. The support we need. And all in a timely fashion.

It’s not like that in most places of course. Women don’t have access to even the most basic things like contraception. And it’s not just a few million here and there that don’t have access. It’s 220 MILLION women in developing countries who want access and can’t get it. When you take away that access, you take away the power a woman has to make plans, to design her own life and decide what she wants to do and when. If she has no way of getting her hands on any sort of birth control then she can’t decide whether and when to have children.

I got to spend some time recently hearing from EngenderHealth, an organization dedicated to training healthcare providers around the world in order to help ensure family planning and reproductive health services are available to more women in more places. I appreciate their work and I know it’s important. I was able to plan my own family — my husband and I were married eight years before we decided to have children. We were financially and emotionally prepared and ready to welcome what ended up being our amazing son and, four-and-a-half years later, our fabulous daughter into the world. It was access to contraception and good women’s healthcare that allowed us to make those plans and have a family exactly the way we wanted to. I think other women, other parents, should be afforded that same access.

But because of cost, gender inequality, the huge distance it often takes to travel to a place that might or might not have contraceptive supplies, and lack of trained providers, among many other barriers, millions of women don’t have access to contraception. EngenderHealth is working to change that. And we can help them this fall by raising our voices and taking small actions as part of their WTFP?!  (Where’s the Family Planning) campaign that will lead to more women getting the healthcare they need exactly when they need it.

If you think women should be able to decide when and if they have children, join in. If you think being able to survive childbirth and have healthier babies is important, join in. And if you think women should have the ability to stay in school or build some type of business or career that gives them financial stability before they have a family, if they choose, join in. Because family planning and contraception contributes to all of these things. Join in. Let’s all ask: #WheresTheFP

Find out more by clicking here and be sure to follow EngenderHealth on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.

What does convenient and safe access to contraceptives mean to you? Answer in the comments below for a chance to win a Social Good Goodies bag.

 

Sweepstakes Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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Be sure to visit the EngenderHealth brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

 

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The Importance of Connecting

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women connectingI recently got the chance to sit around the table with some amazing women and talk about what I do every day and how it has impacted my life and the lives of others. This might be one of my favorite topics, given how social media and blogging has changed my life. I feel like women used to be so disconnected. I mean, we had the neighbors down the street, the people in our communities of faith, our family members, yes, but what were the odds that among that group we’d come across someone who was having the exact same problem we were? Someone who could deeply understand and connect with us based on shared experience? Now we have access to women everywhere. There is most definitely someone out there to talk to who gets it and who can offer guidance and support, no matter the situation. In my line of work supporting pregnant and new moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression, this matters. Mothers need to be able to talk to people who’ve been in the same exact boat. I’ve seen those conversations and connections reduce stigma, guilt, feelings of shame, and even, in my opinion, the burden of disease. I feel so fortunate to live in a time when we have technology that allows us to connect to so many people and their stories. I can’t see any other way that I would have had the opportunity to reach so many, and I see lots of other women in the BlogHer community who are able to have the same impact when it comes to the causes and issues they care about. We need each other, and now we can find each other, and it was great to sit around a table with other bloggers at the BlogHer Conference in San Jose and talk about that ability to connect across the ether and how it has made our lives better. I’m grateful to Stayfree® pads for recognizing the importance of that connection and giving us the chance to talk about it. I hope you’ll watch the resulting video and perhaps get some inspiration to share your own stories even more boldly than you already have and make the kinds of connections that can change your lives and theirs for the better.

 

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 Sweepstakes Condensed Rules: No duplicate comments. Your household may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post  

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.  No Purchase Necessary.

This Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 U.S./D.C. age 18 or older (19+ in AL & NE). Void elsewhere & where prohibited. Winners will be selected via random drawing, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules, by which entrants are bound, are available here. This Sweepstakes runs from 9/10-9/30.

Be sure to visit the Stayfree® brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Sweepstakes is sponsored solely by BlogHer. Energizer Personal Care LLC is not a sponsor. Sweepstakes is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter. © 2014 Energizer.     Stayfree and all other trademarks are owned by Energizer. Bloggers were compensated for creating blog posts in this Stayfree® campaign.  

Photo credit: © bst2012 – Fotolia.com

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