Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Postpartum Depression Stigma Persists Even In Federal Government

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Postpartum Depression Stigma Still Exists, Even in the Federal Government -postpartumprogress.com
Update: We did hear back from the Office of Women’s Health quite quickly and they apologized for the tweet even though it didn’t come from their office. They assured us that they are fully supportive of moms with perinatal mental illness and that they don’t support stigmatizing language. They’re looking into where the tweet came from and why. We really appreciated the positive and sincere conversation about this. 

Someone told a mom in the Postpartum Progress community the other day that there is no longer any stigma when it comes to postpartum depression. We’re talking about it. We’re doing things about it. Moms need to realize that the stigma has abated! This mom reached out to me because she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The person who had said that in her presence was a person in a position of leadership, a person with a lot of knowledge about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. A person who should have known better.

Here at Postpartum Progress we talk to moms from around the US and around the world every day. We know how much the stigma of postpartum depression and related illnesses persists. And worse, we know how much that stigma scares moms and makes them afraid to reach out for the treatment that can help them.

Today I was fortunate to be part of a Twitter chat with the March of Dimes focusing on postpartum depression in NICU moms. Imagine my surprise when a chat that was supposed to help raise awareness and provide support to mothers ended up creating stigma.

Someone officially representing the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, tweeted the following: “In the United States, postpartum depression is one of the leading causes of murder of children less than one year of age.”

I was stunned. I took a screen capture of the tweet, because I was convinced no one would believe me that a statement like that would be made. It’s not correct. It’s unbelievably stigmatizing. And it came from people responsible for health in our own government. People who should definitely know better.

Tweet from @HHS_OASHRegion2 at 1:32 PM EST on 11/18/15 -postpartumprogress.com
So let’s talk for a minute about perinatal mental health and real information about infanticide. If you are a mom who is sensitive right now, I would suggest not reading any further because data about babies and tragedy can be really hard to deal with when you’re struggling.

Okay? Trigger warning commenced. Okay. 

According to the National Center for Vital Statistics, here are the top 10 leading causes of death of children from 0 to age 1 in the year 2013 (none of these, you’ll notice, is homicide):

  1. Birth defects (congenital anomalies)
  2. Short gestation
  3. Maternal pregnancy complications
  4. SIDS
  5. Unintentional injury
  6. Placenta & cord issues
  7. Bacterial sepsis
  8. Respiratory distress
  9. Circulatory system disease
  10. Neonatal hemorrhage

According to the CDC, there were 23,440 deaths of children between the ages of 0 and 1 in 2013. Their data shows that a total of 282 of those 2013 deaths were homicides, but the data doesn’t drill down any further to offer information about who the perpetrator of the crimes may have been. If you read the infanticide report from Child Trends, a nonprofit nonpartisan research center, however, studies suggest that male caretakers are the perpetrators of the majority of infant homicides.

We can’t ignore, of course, that there is a 4% infanticide rate for women who experience postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis occurs in approximately 1 in 1,000 mothers. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, occurs in 1 in 7 mothers. Thankfully infanticide due to psychosis is rare. It is a very serious illness that can lead a mom to suffer from delusions and/or hallucinations that may lead her to do things she would never otherwise do. This is why it’s so important that we take good care of these moms and that they get the professional medical care they need and deserve… something that is not happening in a lot of places.

Moms with postpartum depression are not likely to harm their kids. That’s the truth. But the fear that they will, or could, is one of the things that makes them afraid to reach out for help. This is what makes them keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, rather than tell another person. This is why that tweet matters. Because we want women who are struggling to reach out as soon as possible. The sooner they get help the sooner they get better, and that has a big positive impact on both mom’s and baby’s health.

The tweet has since been taken down. That’s important, and we’re glad. It’s a start. But just taking it down doesn’t address what led someone in Health & Human Services to think it was correct and should be shared in the first place. How do we as a community make sure that there is a better understanding of the facts of maternal mental health, and a better understanding of and how to communicate with moms that postpartum depression is common and that it’s important to get help? As the executive director of Postpartum Progress, I have reached out to the Office of Women’s Health and asked them to call us back. We know we can have a really great conversation together. We’ll let you all know what happens next.

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PPD in the News: What to Do When Tragedy Strikes

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What to Do When Tragedy Happens

If you ever have the radio on, a television on in your vicinity, or follow social media at any point during any given day, you will hear stories of tragedy. Sadly, sometimes those stories involve moms with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

We know stories such as those are painful to hear and can make you fearful and anxious and also have the potential to trigger your symptoms. So here’s a guide for what to do and how to care for yourself when you hear upsetting news.

Self-Care Steps to Take When Tragedy Strikes

First and foremost, please to try remember that another person’s story is NOT your story. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in another person’s life, and neither does the media.

You don’t know what a person’s risk factors are, what type of symptoms she has or had and how severe they were; whether she sought professional help and received a proper diagnosis; whether she was being treated at all or effectively; what her life circumstances are and what stressors she may have been dealing with; and what kind of support she may have had around her. Each of us is a very unique individual and this is why it’s just never helpful or healthy to compare. The fact that a mom in the news has an illness that is the same as yours or similar to yours has little bearing on you and what is happening with you. Her story is NOT your story.

Second, try to consider the data. Numbers don’t lie. The vast, VAST, SUPERVAST majority of moms with perinatal mood or anxiety disorders never end up in the news. There’s a reason for that: It’s rare for a tragedy to happen. We still talk about them because, when they do happen, it’s an important reminder that maternal mental health awareness is important and providing the best help to moms who need it is important.

Third, try to remove yourself from news that might be upsetting to you or affect your health. You can turn off the TV or radio, walk away from the computer or smartphone, and instead do something nice for yourself. Focus on people or things you enjoy or that help you feel centered. Sometimes I light a candle. Sometimes I take a hot shower. Sometimes I play a favorite CD. These are little things that tend to help me calm down when I feel myself drifting toward anxiety or becoming obsessed over bad things that could happen but very likely never will.

And finally, if national tragedies or upsetting stories related to moms are really triggering you to the point that you have a worsening of your own symptoms and all the self-care in the world isn’t helping, call your therapist, social worker, psychiatrist, or whoever the person is who is already helping you with your perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. It’s more than okay to reach back out for help and say that you are concerned and need some support during this time. If you don’t have someone you can reach out to, try the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline.

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Hayden Panettiere, Famous Women & Postpartum Depression

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My Twitter feed is going amileaminute right now with people tweeting about the fact that mother Hayden Panettiere, who also happens to be a Hollywood actress, has entered treatment for postpartum depression. So many of you are sending me Facebook messages with links to EOnline and ET and People and the rest that my phone is pinging nonstop.

I have three reactions to this:

  • Please heavens above, universe and all powers that be let the purported “postpartum depression treatment center” she’s in be one of the amazing organizations or specialists that truly specializes in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Because they’re amazing, they know what they’re doing, and they can make a huge difference in her life. And good help is EVERYTHING.
  • Hayden Panettiere is just a person. That’s it. She’s a person who has an illness that can be serious and devastating without help, that anyone can get no matter who they are or where they live or what color they are or what kind of work they do. And right now she deserves to be just a person who has gone to do something important to take care of herself. Like so many of you in the Postpartum Progress community are doing and have done. And none of us had the press following us wanting to know exactly what we were doing and what type of treatment it was and when we’d be done. It’s so difficult to reach out for help and admit to others when you are struggling. You feel like the whole world will judge you and think that you “can’t handle” being a mom. Like you’re a failure. Except you aren’t, of course, but that’s how it feels and no one can convince you otherwise. And to be in that vulnerable position and end up with your bizness on TMZ?  That would suck. Big time. It takes a lot of courage to do what you need to do for yourself and your family knowing that lots of idiots who know nothing about maternal mental health will weigh in on your situation. I’m at least minimally comforted by the assumption that she’s been in the public eye long enough that she knows NEVER to read the comments.
  • As much courage as Hayden Panettiere has shown — and we surely congratulate her for it — you show it too. Every day. All of you. And every single one of you has an important story. And every single one of you has an experience that matters to us, whether it’s PPD, postpartum anxiety/OCD, postpartum bipolar disorder, postpartum PTSD, post-adoption depression, postpartum psychosis, or depression and anxiety during pregnancy. You single Warrior Moms show courage. You military Warrior Moms show courage. You Warrior Moms with babies in the NICU show courage. Those of you who have no idea how to pay for a single cent of your treatment show courage. Those of you who come from cultures that don’t believe PPD exists show courage. You, and many more, are the brave faces of postpartum depression. So while I know that the media loves to jump on the PPD bandwagon whenever a celeb is struggling, I also know they tend to disappear just as quickly when the story dies down. And yet all of you will still be struggling, and wishing there were more services, and wishing you didn’t have to wait months for an appointment, and wishing you had family members or friends who understood, and wishing you had insurance that covered more care, and wishing you really felt safe telling someone what’s going on inside your head, and wishing wishing wishing for more and better for all moms struggling with maternal mental illness. And Postpartum Progress will continue to be here and continue to work our collective asses off for all of you. We love you.

So, go Hayden. The Warrior Moms are behind you. And go YOU. Because you can do this. You can get the help you need and deserve. Be patient with yourself as you go through this difficult time, and know there are women here who have gone before you and know what it’s like and are dedicated to reaching down to pull our sisters up out of the darkness.

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Announcing the Warrior Mom Ambassador Program

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Warrior Mom Ambassadors

Postpartum Progress is launching its official community volunteer program, called the Warrior Mom™ Ambassadors. The Ambassadors are women who have survived perinatal mood and anxiety disorders who want to work with us to build a network that supports meaningful change – a core group that wants to do more in their cities and towns than they are already doing to provide peer support and spread the word about maternal mental health.

A Warrior Mom ambassador will apply by filling out an application and signing an official volunteer agreement. If selected, she will become a key lead in her community representing Postpartum Progress in peer outreach and awareness. There can be more than one ambassador in a community by the way, and together you will make up a loosely organized Postpartum Progress “embassy.” Our only requirement is that you must be willing to work with others. Remember the Postpartum Progress tagline: together, stronger.

A Warrior Mom Ambassador is a mom who wants to support other moms in her community. She wants to raise awareness of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and reduce stigma. She is willing to share her own story publicly. She is willing to learn the facts about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders so that she can share that evidence-based knowledge with others. She is willing to participate in free training opportunities provided by Postpartum Progress to be the best peer supporter she can be. She has been looking for a way to become more officially involved with Postpartum Progress.

If you are already volunteering in a large capacity for another organization becoming a Warrior Mom Ambassador is not for you — at least not at this time. This is because we want to make SURE we do not take your valuable efforts and time away from other nonprofits doing good work in the maternal mental health space. In the end all these things help moms and that’s good.

How much time will it take to be a Warrior Mom Ambassador? To be honest, we’re not sure. This is a new program. But we feel very strongly about working closely with our ambassadors to learn what works and what doesn’t so we can make this the best volunteer program it can be.

What do we expect of you? That you don’t sign up to be an Ambassador in name only. We can see the difference, I promise you, between Warrior Moms who really put in some time and effort on the projects we put out there and the ones who don’t. That’s perfectly fine because not every volunteer can do as much. We’ll still have lots of volunteers who don’t want to be Ambassadors – they might just want to help share our messages via social media, or join a Climb, or work on a single project – and those moms will remain important to us. An Ambassador is just a higher level of volunteer in a smaller group who will have more opportunities to lead in her community and will have more access to our resources. If you become an Ambassador and end up not being able to put in the time — life happens, right? — then we’ll just ask you to go back to being a regular volunteer. Which is still great. No harm, no foul. And you can always apply to be an Ambassador again when you have more time.

We’ll also expect that you’ll be willing to conduct outreach to ALL moms and not just moms of your style, neighborhood, religion, lifestyle, ethnicity, etc. Being an Ambassador is not for you if you aren’t willing to get outside your comfort zone to speak to and support moms who may not look like you or have your same cultural beliefs. We’ll provide you with lots of support on this so you don’t feel like you’re going it alone. We just want to make sure Postpartum Progress is for all moms.

What can you expect from us? That we will do everything we can to support you. As you know we believe in servant leadership and providing peers with the tools they need to help others. We promise that will continue. We will continue to provide you our materials freely for distribution and any training opportunities we provide will be free to you as well.

What are the benefits of becoming a Warrior Mom Ambassador?

  • First dibs on Warrior Mom Conference tickets before they go on sale to the public
  • A 20% discount code for Warrior Mom merchandise
  • The opportunity to lead scientific research efforts in your area (as we are able to conduct through funding and partnerships) by helping us enroll local participants for that research
  • Local media interview opportunities if we are contacted by media in your area
  • Peer support and other types of peer-related training (as we are able to provide it through funding and partnerships)
  • Whatever other cool stuff we come up with … and you know we will!


What if I don’t want to be an Ambassador but would like to work on one project, for instance being a Climb Out of the Darkness team leader in your town? NOT A PROBLEM. Keep doing what you do girl! We love you!!

What are your selection criteria? We want to know why you’d like to do this and what your goals are and whether they match our organizational mission. We want to know if you have the time and wherewithal to get out there and raise awareness and support our efforts. And, to be honest, if we already have a relationship with you in some capacity because you have been a Climb leader or have attended the Warrior Mom conference or volunteered for us in some other capacity, that will make a big difference. So if you’re thinking you’d like to become an Ambassador next year or the year after, we’d suggest getting involved with us in some capacity and seeing what we’re about. We’d love to get to know you!

If I become an official Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Ambassador can I still collaborate with other local organizations? Of course!! Absolutely!! Without question!!

If I become an official Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Ambassador will I have to participate in every single Postpartum Progress project and program? No. There will be some things we’ll ask everyone to do and some things that will be optional. For example, we expect every ambassador to participate in her local Climb Out of the Darkness climb, but we don’t expect nor would we require every ambassador to be a Climb team leader (though we know many who will apply already are team leaders).

Is there a deadline to apply? No. This is an ongoing, rolling application process. We’ll be adding new volunteers all the time. So whenever you’re ready, let us know!

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