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.

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:

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5. Sign up for EngenderHealth newsletter at the following link, and leave a comment on the post saying you did so.

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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This sweepstakes runs from 9/22/14 -11/4/14

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.

 

Inspired by high-performance fabrics, Stayfree® Ultra Thin® pads have flexible layers that move with your body and ThermoControl® technology to wick away moisture. So you’ll stay dry and comfortable. Stayfree.® Keep Moving.™ To get $0.50 off any Stayfree® product, including Stayfree® Ultra Thin® pads, visit www.stayfree.com/special.     Enter for a chance to win a $100 Drugstore.com gift card! Leave a comment below letting me how you pamper yourself for a chance to win a $100 Drugstore.com gift card

 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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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Submit Your Story for New Postpartum Anthology

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postpartum depression storiesApproximately 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression after having a baby. Many more may experience depression during pregnancy, postpartum anxiety, OCD, and more. Postpartum depression is in fact the most common pregnancy-related complication, more widespread than gestational diabetes, preterm labor, or pre-eclampsia. Yet confusion and misinformation about postpartum depression and anxiety are still widespread. Myths surrounding mothers’ mental health challenges can have devastating effects on women’s well-being as well as their identities as mothers, too often leading to shame and inadequate treatment. Although postpartum and antenatal depression and anxiety are temporary when treated, untreated mood disorders can lead to long-term consequences for both a mother and her child. A mother can feel very alone, ashamed, and hopeless. And keep silent.

Mothering Through the Darkness: Stories of Postpartum Struggles will be a unique anthology with the goal of breaking that silence. With this collection of essays, the HerStories Project will try to dispel these myths and focus on the diversity of women’s experiences through the voices of mothers themselves. Mothering Through the Darkness will be the third book published by HerStories, which has already published The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain & Power of Female Friendship and My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing & Leaving Friends (to be released on September 15th).

The HerStories Project is thrilled to be partnering with and supporting Postpartum Progress with Mothering Through the Darkness. Ten percent of the profits from the sales of the book will go toward the nonprofit organization’s mission of supporting maternal mental health.

For this anthology they now have opened submissions and are seeking unpublished, first-person essays from mothers about their experiences with postpartum depression, anxiety, or other mental health struggles during or after pregnancy. They’re looking for well-crafted, true accounts that explore and examine aspects of this experience. Submissions must feature a strong and compelling narrative. They’re looking for well-written prose, rich detail, and a strong, distinctive voice.

Essays submitted for the book and the HerStories Writing Contest (learn more about the contest below) will be judged by the editors of the HerStories Project, as well as several talented writers listed below whose lives as mothers or as clinicians have been affected by postpartum depression and anxiety. Essays will be judged on their emotional power, originality, and quality of their prose.

Guidelines

Previously unpublished and between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Please also submit a short bio of 50-100 words, including whether you’ve appeared in other publications.

Deadline

December 1, 2014

The Writing Contest

Your submission to Mothering Through the Darkness can be, if you choose, simultaneously entered into the first HerStories Project Writing Contest. The HerStories Project will award $500 to one submission for Best Essay and $100 to two runners-up. All three essays will be published in the book, and each winner will receive a paperback copy.

To cover the costs of sponsoring the contest, they are asking for a $10 reading fee with your submission. If this fee presents a financial hardship in any way that would otherwise prevent you from submitting an essay, they will waive this fee and this will not affect the status of your entry. Again, you do not need to enter the Writing Contest to submit to the Mothering Through the Darkness book.

Writing Contest Judges

Katrina Alcorn is the author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. She is a writer and a design consultant. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and documentary filmmaking from UC Berkeley and blogs at WorkingMomsBreak.com.

Lisa Belkin is the Senior National Correspondent for Yahoo News. Previously she has held staff positions at the New York Times and The Huffington Post. She is the author of three books, including Life’s Work: Confessions of An Unbalanced Mom, and the editor of two anthologies.

Julia Fierro is the founder of The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she recently published her first novel, Cutting Teeth, an Oprah Pick of the Week.

Kate Hopper is the author of Ready for Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood and Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. Kate holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and has been the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Sustainable Arts Grant. She teaches classes and holds retreats for mother writers.

Lindsey Mead is a corporate headhunter with an MBA from Harvard who also writes for her popular blog, A Design So Vast. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies

Jessica Zucker, PhD is a psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. A consultant to PBS’ This Emotional Life and the Every Mother Counts campaign with Christy Turlington, she has been a contributor to NPR and is currently writing her first book for Routledge on maternal attachment

How To Submit

Click here to submit your essay for consideration. For more information, visit the HerStories Project website.

 

Photo credit: © tashatuvango – Fotolia.com

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New York Times’ Biased Reporting On Antidepressants And Pregnancy Hurts Moms

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On September 1st, the New York Times published a misleading and irresponsible article on antidepressants and pregnancy: Possible Risks of Antidepressants to Newborns. It was published in print on September 2 as well with the headline “Pills May Put Babies At Risk,” though if you read the article there’s no “may” about it, but instead lots of research showing children of moms who take SSRIs are probably in very big trouble. Below in its entirety is a response to the article put together by Postpartum Support International. I’m sharing it in full at their request.

We write on behalf of Postpartum Support International (PSI), the leading organization dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood disorders, and to educating families, friends, and healthcare providers so that pregnant and postpartum women can get the support they need to recover.

As a group, we are deeply concerned by Roni Caryn Rabin’s inaccurate and dangerously biased piece in the New York Times’ Well blog on September 01, 2014:  http://nyti.ms/1no0Boy.  Her article is likely to foster unnecessary fear among women who struggle with mood disorders who plan to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are in the postpartum period. The implication that women idly choose to start or to remain on antidepressants, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), or any other medication during pregnancy is insulting and demeaning. Women who, under a healthcare provider’s care, choose to remain on medication do so to counter moderate to severe depression or anxiety symptoms that would otherwise render them functionally impaired.

Rather than refuting the Rabin piece line by line, we will simply address the key inaccuracies. Please refer to the PSI website at http://www.postpartum.net for further information and for resources and referral options for those suffering from perinatal and postpartum mood disorders in the U.S. and other countries.

The author has chosen to cherry pick studies to support her misguided, inaccurate hypothesis, and ignored studies that failed to find increased risks associated with SSRI use in pregnancy. Rabin failed to quote any reproductive psychiatrists, who specialize in this field and work on a daily basis with women suffering from various mood disorders before, during, and after pregnancy. Instead, she chooses to quote a non-physician, Dr. Mintzes, who lacks the psychopharmacologic training and experience necessary to make such global claims. Statements made by Dr. Mintzes are inaccurate and amount to fear mongering.

In terms of the assertion that fetal exposure to SSRIs increases the risk of birth defects, including but not limited to cardiac defects, this is an antiquated and now disproven theory. There are many highly reputable studies that have failed to find any associated risk. Every pregnancy has a 3-5% risk of resulting in major malformation, and study after study has failed to find any increased risk of such major malformations after exposure to any SSRI.

Regarding Rabin’s assertion that SSRIs result in cardiac problems in infants, studies have found that there is no relationship. One study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2008 followed over a thousand women. The findings were that there was no increased risk of heart defects associated with Paxil. A recent large scale study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June of this year concluded that the results of this large, population-based cohort study suggested “no substantial increase in the risk of cardiac malformations attributable to antidepressant [including Paxil] used during the first trimester.” (Funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institutes of Health – Huybrechts et al. NEJM June 2014)

Furthermore, the FDA warning that was initially posted in 2005 regarding risk of cardiac defects associated with Paxil exposure in utero has not been changed despite the FDA recanting the warning in other press releases.

Ms. Rabin also quotes a Norwegian study by Skurtveit and suggests it is a definitive finding regarding language acquisition deficits in three year olds as a result of long term SSRI use in pregnancy. However, upon close reading of this paper, it is apparent that the findings are anything but certain. Instead, only 386 of 51,748 women surveyed (0.7%) used SSRIs during pregnancy, and of these, only 161 reported long-term use. This is a very small number of women and the results were marginal at best.  Forming any conclusions regarding SSRIs during pregnancy is dangerous and inappropriate.

Another risk referred to in the article is Poor Neonatal Adaptation Syndrome. A small minority of babies experience self-limited symptoms of PNAS following in-utero exposure to SSRIs. To equate those rare cases to the withdrawal of babies from addictive substances taken by drug-abusing mothers is misguided and dangerously misleading and reveals a bias in the author.

The PNAS and Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) study from 2006 quoted in the piece as definitive has been followed subsequently by many other studies that have clarified the risk to be quite small and not significant enough to warrant stopping necessary medication.

There are further inaccuracies reported in Rabin’s piece. The risk of prematurity from exposure to SSRIs in utero is minimal at best. Studies found that mothers taking SSRIs might deliver one week early, which is still considered full term.  Women are routinely under-treated for depression and anxiety during pregnancy as a result of unfounded fears, such as the ones propagated by Rabin’s article. Anxiety and depression can cause an early labor.

In terms of the risk of neurodevelopmental delays and autism as a result of SSRI exposure, there have been many studies that fail to show such associations. The research consistently finds that any potential increased risk is based primarily on the underlying psychiatric illness being treated, not from the medications directly.

While multiple ‘risks’ of exposure to SSRIs were highlighted in Rabin’s article, the well-established and repeatedly documented true risks associated with fetal exposure to untreated depression and anxiety were systematically glossed over. Depression during pregnancy increases the risk of prematurity 2-3 fold. Depression and anxiety during pregnancy also profoundly increase the risk of postpartum depression, which may have profound negative effects on both the baby’s and any siblings’ development (Pilowsky et al 2008).

In contrast to this poorly researched, biased article that fails to inform accurately, the New York Times effectively documented the potentially devastating consequences for mother, baby, and family from under-treated peripartum and postpartum illnesses in the series of articles released in June 2014 by Pam Belluck.

As an organization comprised of clinicians, researchers, families, and advocates who strive to help women, babies and families, the Postpartum Support International community is profoundly disappointed in the New York Times’ biased and inaccurate reporting. Women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders must be supported, and treated, not shamed. No clinician prescribes any medication in pregnancy without an appreciation that the risks of the untreated illness are far greater than any risk associated with medication being prescribed. Women rarely choose to take medication during pregnancy if they can avoid doing so; however, pregnancy is hard on its own, and pregnancy for women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can be painful beyond words.

There is no excuse for such reporting that clearly seeks to dissuade women from getting the treatment they require. There are horrible stories in the news regularly that document the risks of untreated perinatal illness for mom and her children. Why these inexplicably sad outcomes cannot be seen as a reason for treatment is truly beyond comprehension.

Yes, risks exist from exposure to SSRIs in pregnancy. However, these risks must be put in context and compared fairly with the potential devastating effects of untreated maternal illness. Such a risk versus benefit analysis occurs daily among women, their partners, and clinicians. Rather than condemning the choices made, it is about time for society to support these women and show compassion for the painful ordeal they are experiencing by virtue of suffering from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.

Ann D. S. Smith, CNM, PSI President

Carly Snyder, MD, PSI Research Chair

Catherine Birndorf, MD, PSI President’s Advisory Council

Adrienne Einarson, RN, Reproductive Psychiatry Group Founder

Editor’s note: The original version of this letter as it was submitted to us and published stated that Dr. Urato is not a not a physician. This is incorrect. The letter meant to state that Dr. Mintzes is not a physician, and has now been corrected to reflect that. 

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