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.

Expanding Outreach to Underserved Communities

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Divya KimarIn July, I had the privilege of speaking to over 100 survivors of PPD and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders at the first Warrior Mom™ Conference about expanding outreach to underserved communities. When those of us who are survivors expand our advocacy efforts to support other struggling moms, we can benefit from reflecting on our own experience and understanding how the experience of perinatal emotional complications differs across different groups.

First, what do we mean by “underserved”? While women from ALL different places and backgrounds struggle with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy and postpartum, they face different challenges based on their identities, privilege, and life circumstances. A large body of research indicates that rates of maternal mental health disorders are higher among women who are disenfranchised. Women of color and low-income women experience PPD and related illnesses at nearly twice the rates of middle class white women; in fact, one study indicates that 40-60% of women living in poverty experience postpartum depression.[1] [2] [3] Moms who struggle with domestic violence, have a history of previous trauma, are recovering from substance abuse, and become a mother during the teenage years experience higher rates of depression and anxiety.[4] [5] Women of color are also more likely to experience poverty and pregnancy complications, which can lead to and exacerbate emotional complications. Lack of support, social isolation, and lack of access to physical and mental health services also contribute to and worsen depression and anxiety.[6] Plus, not only do women of color and economically disenfranchised women experience higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders, their rates of treatment are significantly lower.

Examining privilege, intersectionality, and the lens of diversity

As survivors, we may have ideas of how to help other moms who are struggling, based on our own experiences with PPD and related illnesses and what we found to be helpful. Before we can think about how we can support others, though, it is important to look at our own privilege. Privilege refers to any unearned benefit or advantage we receive in society because of an aspect of our identity, such as race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, class/wealth, ability, etc. When we say, “we warrior moms,” we may be making many assumptions about who “we” is, and, despite our best intentions, we may fail at being inclusive and/or representing folks outside our demographic. Reflecting on our privilege helps us think about how we can work with folks who share our privilege– as well as those who don’t– to create changes that benefit everyone.

Looking at perinatal mood and anxiety disorders through a “lens of diversity” can help us see how different aspects of our identities—and our privilege—affect our experiences with PPD, including whom we felt we could tell, the treatment we sought, our barriers to care, and the professionals who helped us. This process can illuminate why what was helpful for us may not necessarily be helpful to other moms. Here are some questions to consider:

What does postpartum depression mean for different communities? Here’s the thing: being able to SAY that you are experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety, or another perinatal emotional complication (let alone have the ability to seek treatment for it) is a privilege. For many moms, the challenges of unstable housing, poverty, homophobia, unsafe neighborhoods, and racism may exceed the need for treatment. Different moms have a different hierarchy of needs, and addressing their own mood and mental state may be seen as overly indulgent when there are bigger fish to fry.

Moreover, these same challenges may BE the actual source of stress for some moms. For example, one study found that 30% of low-income families can’t afford adequate diapers for their baby, and that this specific need was linked to depression and anxiety.[7] Research has clearly demonstrated the link between extenuating life circumstances (such as poverty, trauma, isolation, etc) and maternal mental illness, so, for some moms, it can be difficult—and not really relevant– to parse out the difference between a mental health issue and an expected reaction to incredible challenges.

Also, along these lines, some communities may view postpartum depression and related illnesses as unacceptable—or as something that happens to other people. A qualitative study of African American women provides some keen insight into the different conceptualizations and experiences of mental health issues.  According to one participant in the study, “There is no postpartum depression. Only white people go through it.” Another participant stated that a neighbor had told her that, “depression is something young mothers do to get out of needing to take care of their kids”.[8]

Who seeks and receives treatment and why? Treatment (such as talk therapy or medication) may be appealing and possible for some women and not others. One study found that Black and Latina women receive treatment at nearly half the rates of white women, and, considering that rates of depression and anxiety are higher among women of color, this statistic is particularly troubling.[9] In some communities, mental/behavioral health issues are heavily stigmatized; moreover, women may not have the ability to see a mental health provider who looks like her or represents her community. Just like many women may want to see a female Ob-Gyn, women of color may want to see a clinician of her racial/ethnic group—and may not be able to do so.

What barriers do women face when speaking honestly about emotional complications and/or seeking treatment?   Women of color and/or women who are economically disenfranchised may face numerous barriers to seeking and receiving care, including cultural stigma, lack of mental health providers who accept Medicaid, lack of culturally or linguistically appropriate services, lack of childcare, lack of transportation, and fear of children being taken away. Also, although women of color are at a higher risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, they are less likely to disclose symptoms to a healthcare provider. 

What are common images of women who suffer from perinatal emotional complications? What do they look like? Do they look like US? Like everyone? One participant from Sampson’s qualitative study “criticized current TV commercials for antidepressants, saying,

“Based on what you see on TV and their commercials and the ones holdin’ the dog by the window, that is so completely garbage. When asked how a commercial that accurately portrays PPD would look, one participant gave this vivid example: She movin’ around. She droppin’ the kids, you tired, you overworked. She doin’ the most, she cookin’, she cleanin’, she washin’ dishes. Doin’ everything at one time….Baby hollerin’, hand doin’ this here, I mean it’s just no time to stop, no time to stop.…Everything has to be done. Nobody else is gonna do it.”

Common media representations of mental health issues did not reflect the experiences of these women. What does that say about how we represent mental health issues?

What do we usually say to women who are struggling with perinatal emotional complications? We as survivors and advocates may be quick to say things like, “It’s OK, it’s not your fault, many women struggle like this, please don’t be ashamed, there is help, you can heal and be well”, etc. While many women will gain comfort from these statements, not all will. In some communities, postpartum depression is seen as something that affects weaker mothers and that “strong” mothers don’t “catch” depression. This blame, along with stigma, lack of diversity among mental health professionals, copious barriers to accessing care, and the stark reality that no amount of therapy will erase poverty and racism, illustrate how what we say will resonate differently with women in different life circumstances. In other words, the statement “there is help for you” doesn’t mean much if the logistical and cultural barriers to accessing help feel insurmountable.

So, when we look at maternal mental health disorders through this lens of diversity, we can see that we as advocates cannot talk about the importance of getting treatment without understanding the context of women’s lives: life circumstances; privilege, and lack thereof; and the barriers faced by so many women—transportation, childcare, lack of insurance, language, cultural stigma, lack of mental health providers of color.

So, how can we, as survivors, be better advocates for all moms who are struggling with PPD and related illnesses? We’ll discuss that, along with some tangible places to start making a difference, this Friday in Part Two!

[1] Chaudron LH et al. Accuracy of Depression Screening Tools for Identifying Postpartum Depression Among Urban Mothers. Pediatrics. 2010. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-3261

[2] Satcher D. Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity: A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC; 2001

[3] Isaacs MR (2006). Maternal depression: The silent epidemic in poor communities. Baltimore, MD, Annie E. Casey Foundation.

[4] Troutman BR & Cutrona CE Nonpsychotic postpartum depression among adolescent mothers. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1990; 99(1) :69-78.

[5] Ross L & Dennis CL (2009). The prevalence of postpartum depression among women with substance use, an abuse history, or chronic illness: A systematic review. Journal of Women’s Health, 18 (4), 475-486.

[6] Templeton L. Velleman R, Persaud A., Milner P. The experiences of postnatal depression in women from black and minority ethnic communities in Wiltshire, UK. Ethn Health. 2003;8(3):207-221.

[7] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/07/inadequate-diaper-supply-linked-child-abuse-depression

[8] Sampson M et al. A disease you just caught: Low-income African-American mothers’ cultural beliefs about postpartum depression. Women’s Healthcare. 2014 Nov:44-50.

[9] Kozhimannil, K. B., Trinacty, C. M., Busch, A. B., Huskamp, H. A., & Adams, A. S. (2011). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Postpartum Depression Care Among Low-Income Women. Psychiatric Services(Washington, D.C.), 62(6), 619–625. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.62.6.619.


Divya Kumar, Sc.M., CLC, PPD Divya Kumar has a Masters in public health and is certified as a postpartum doula and lactation counselor. In 2013, she helped create a state-funded perinatal support pilot program in four community health centers in Massachusetts. She currently provides perinatal support for women and families at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, one of the four pilot sites. In addition, she facilitates support groups for new parents and conducts workshops about the transition to parenthood. Divya tells it like it is and brings honesty, compassion, camaraderie, and humor to her work with new families. She is also the mother of two children and a survivor of perinatal emotional complications.

photo credit: ©Fotolia – Rawpixel

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6 Tools To Help You Feel Supported & Understood Through PPD

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postpartum depressionWe want to make sure all of the mamas out there (and the therapists and MDs and others who are looking for great stuff to support mamas) know about the different kinds of support and tools Postpartum Progress offers. Our goal as a nonprofit serving women’s mental health is to get you great information, connect you to good help, and provide you with comfort and support from the community of women who have been through perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression.

Today I’m going to give you a quick list so you don’t miss out on some things we have to offer:

1) Specialists – Still looking for someone to help you who actually seems like they know a little bit about postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum bipolar, postpartum psychosis, birth trauma or depression or anxiety during pregnancy? We’ve got a list of more than 400 specialists that are Warrior Mom™ approved. You can find them all here (and be sure to check back because we add to it all the time): Maternal Mental Health Specialists 

2) Postpartum Progress Private Forum – Newly diagnosed? Not sure if you have a maternal mental illness and trying to find out if you should seek help? Live in a place where there’s no in-person support group to attend, or just can’t get out of the house? Our private forum hosted by Smart Patients is a place where you can hear from other moms who are currently struggling, ask questions or share your own story. It’s free, and you can remain anonymous if you’d prefer. We pride ourselves on maintaining a community there that is positive, embracing and non-judgmental, and now more than 2,300 women strong. You can sign up here: Postpartum Progress Private Forum 

3) Downloadables – Need a free checklist you can download to help you start a conversation with your doctor? Use our New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help. All you have to do is enter your name and email and we’ll send it to you in PDF form. Want a nice clean and pretty handout version of the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Plain Mama English to share with a patient or maybe a not-so-sure family member? Get it here. We’re creating new tools all the time to help you navigate through the thorny forest of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and find your way back to yourself.

4) Social Media – We are everywhere you are on social media. Well, except maybe Snapchat. Or Vine. But anyway …

Facebook – Have you liked our Facebook page yet? We help you keep track of Postpartum Progress events and share the latest news so you know what’s happening in the maternal mental health world.

Pinterest – If you think you might need an inspirational quote to pin to your bathroom mirror to help remind you that you really ARE going to make it through this, we’ve got that! Just follow our PPD Hope Pinterest Board and you’ll join more than 2,000 others who are looking for some inspiration too!

Instagram – Yes, we finally launched an Instagram account. Follow Postpartum Progress on Instagram and see what women who go through perinatal mood and anxiety disorders look like. (Hint: A lot like you.)

Twitter – Follow us on Twitter at @postpartumprog!

5) Warrior Mom Playlist on Spotify – Sometimes you’re having a super crappy day — or, let’s be honest, during PPD (or related illnesses) a LOT of times you’re having a super crappy day — and you need some music to pick you up. The Warrior Mom™ Playlist on Spotify features 2 hours’ worth of music to get you through, all selected by moms who’ve had the SAME crappy days. Sign up for a free Spotify account and then access it here (or just search for “Warrior Moms Playlist”).

6) Daily Hope – If a quote or two from our Pinterest board isn’t going to cut it and you’re thinking you really need daily reminders that you WILL get better, then Daily Hope is for you. I wrote every single message myself and you can get them delivered each Monday through Friday to your inbox for a year. Here’s what one subscriber recently told us about her experience with Daily Hope:

Was it helpful?  EVERYDAY!!!
Was it what you expected?  IT WAS MORE!
Overall, do you feel it helped you through this past year? MOST DEF.  I remember waking up at times doubting certain things and Daily Hope had those answers and helped get me through my day.

You can sign up for Daily Hope here.

Also, once you’ve had some time to get care of yourself, get the treatment that’s right for you and start down the road of recovery, you might consider the following:

7) If you want to keep an eye out for our announcement of the dates for the 2016 Warrior Mom™ Conference, or be one of the first people to join a team for the 2016 Climb Out of the Darkness, well then you probably want to sign up to get our newsletter and keep up to date on all the latest happenings. And don’t worry, we don’t send it out that often because we don’t want to overwhelm your inbox. We know you’re overwhelmed enough as it is!

8) Ready to volunteer to pay it forward and help at least one other mom? Join our Warrior Mom Battalion, moms just like you who know how important it is for women with PPD or anxiety or OCD or psychosis or depression or anxiety during pregnancy to feel understood and not alone. Fill out this survey to help us learn a little more about you.

9) Show your Warrior Mom pride (or have your babies’ show theirs) with something from our brand new Warrior Mom™ shop. Would you believe we’ve already sold out of the first run of our kids’ tees and moms’ tank tops?

As always, there’s more on the way. We’re excited to keep innovating every year so that we can make sure you know you are not alone and that maternal mental illness is temporary and treatable with professional help.

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Why These Women Are Climbing Out of the Darkness of PPD

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climbing out of the darknessThis weekend, Postpartum Progress’ 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness will take place in cities in towns throughout the world. Some of the women participating, all of whom are survivors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like PPD, have shared with us why they are Climbing. I know many of you will recognize your story in theirs, and I hope it inspires you to keep climbing out of the darkness.

Because I was very excited to be a mom.
Because I was told how wonderful it would be.
Because it was the complete opposite of wonderful.
Because I thought it was “just the Baby Blues.”
Because I knew it would be hard, but not miserable.
Because I felt like I was existing inside a great big cobweb of quiet anger.
Because I was terrified of that anger.
Because I wanted to reach out, but felt like nobody could truly see me or hear me.
Because I was faking it every day.
Because I was ashamed of how I felt.
Because I wanted to nurture and connect with my son, but the more I tried to connect, the more disconnected I became.
Because I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
Because my husband and I existed with a lonely chasm between us due to my inability to express what was happening inside of me.
Because I waited 15 months to find help.
Because Postpartum Progress was instrumental to my recovery.
Because I climbed out of the darkness of postpartum depression!
Because I love my son and my husband more than anything.
Because other moms need to know they are not alone in the darkness…
Because it’s scary to share the truth.
Because … I am a Warrior Mom! ~ Ali

I Climb for my daughter, my husband, my parents, and my in-laws. This was my support system in my darkest time. They were there when I wasn’t there mentally, emotionally or physically. They came to therapy and psychiatric appointments. They visited me in the hospital. They kept my daughter healthy and alive when I couldn’t. They woke up with me to feed Sophia. They kept calm and cool in a situation that should’ve driven them crazy with worry. They have my utmost gratitude and love.

I Climb for myself. Somehow I survived an ordeal that rattled my brain and mentality to points this depression sufferer never thought imaginable. I battled by going to therapy, admitting myself into the hospital and taking my meds. I came out stronger.

I Climb for other mothers who have, are or may suffer … To be their support, to show them they are not alone. There is a whole Warrior Mom Family out there to lean on. ~ Stephanie

Because I want better for every woman, child and family.  ~ Kristen

Because a co-worker once told me that only selfish people get PPD, and sadly her complete ignorance is not that uncommon.  ~ Teresa

My ‘baby’ turns 11 today. His pregnancy was what brought me here, to all of you. I was not sure we would make it through, but we did and EVERY SINGLE birthday he has makes me so very grateful. ~ Lara

My daughter turns two on Friday, and Monday will mark two years since my world was turned upside down by postpartum anxiety. I’ve been looking back at photos from when she was tiny and my heart breaks remembering how much I missed in my swamp of anxiety. And, because I expect so much more of myself than I’d ever expect of anyone else, I struggle with the knowledge that I STILL, two years later, am not back to “normal.” So, this week, I’m especially thankful for Postpartum Progress and all of you wonderful ladies. I’m grateful that I have a place to go when I’m feeling lost–a place where I know I’ll be understood. This is why I Climb, so that ALL mothers may know that they have a safe place too. ~ Amber

Because when I had my first I had NO idea what was wrong with me … I was even “taught” about PPD In a parenting class in high school. The only thing I ever heard about was a woman wanting to hurt herself or her baby. I was the complete opposite. I had a debilitating fear. After my second was born I hit rock bottom, and I started to realize how incredibly lucky I am to live in Grand Rapids. The support here is unlike anywhere. I now have a deep passion for working with moms with PPD, being involved makes me feel like I’m making a tiny difference in someone’s life. I want to be apart of the change, and I want every city in the world to have the kind of help and support that we have in GR. Women deserve it. ~ Tabitha

I climb for my brother, sister-in-law and my nephew. I climb to support them and also to encourage others to get help with postpartum depression. I climb because it doesn’t just affect the mom in the family, it takes it’s toll on dad and baby, too. I climb because both of my sisters-in-law have experienced PPD, and they are worth speaking up for. I climb because of the countless friends who have suffered in silence, who had nowhere to turn. I climb because even though I can’t conceive a child I know the impact of a new baby on a family. I climb because Topeka has very few resources to help new moms with PPD. ~ Melanie

I’m climbing because I was ashamed to be diagnosed and I waited forever to get help because of it. I am climbing because I want to help find those moms that are afraid to say anything and tell them there is power in their voice.

I climb because there was a point in time where I did not want to be here anymore; and thankfully, I survived that to be the advocate I am today.

And most importantly, I climb because there is a strong genetic link to my diagnosis, and I want my little girl to know it’s okay to ask for help. And if she does get PPD I want her to know it’s okay to seek treatment and that I will be here to guide her along the way! ~ Christina

I climb because I know what the darkest pit looks like and now I know what the top (or at least close) looks like. I climb because I know how it feels to think you can’t take another step and continue pushing further up that hill. I climb because I know what it feels like to think you have no hope and I know what it feels like to find Postpartum Progress and realize that I am not alone. And finally, I climb because without this group and without this climb, I don’t know where I would be but today I can stand here, loving my two babies more than anything in the world, and hopefully help others who are or have been in the same place. ~ Rebecca

I grew up without my mom present in my life and I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to grow up with a healthy mom and I want moms everywhere to get help even if they aren’t feeling strong enough to seek it out themselves. I want them all to know that self-care is not selfish. Postpartum Progress helped save me. I’m so glad I’m still here for these cuties! ~ Lucy

I’m climbing for myself and every mother who has struggled with postpartum depression and other perinatal mental illnesses.

I’m climbing to raise awareness and erase the stigma attached to mental illness. When a woman becomes a mother she expects (and is expected) to be on cloud nine. When she doesn’t feel ecstatic, it can be very upsetting. And when a mother feels absolutely awful it can cause her to become reclusive.

Society makes it so hard for women to admit that their thoughts and emotions aren’t normal because they feel shame. I want to change that ~ Jolene

I am “climbing” because I know the struggles of depression. Everyone deserves to have a “winning” chance at life. Your support team, whether it’s the community, family, friends, church, therapist, or coworkers can make a huge difference to finding a path that’s right for you to succeed. This group can help so many that struggle with PPD and is an outlet where they can not only receive help, but find some kind of normalcy. ~ Christal

I climb because I worked HARD to get here. My family is strong because I am, they have traveled this road with me! I push every day to climb out of the darkness! ~ Heidi

I am climbing for my two little superheroes. Because they saved me in so many ways. ~ Avery

I climb so others don’t feel alone. I am 16 weeks pregnant and am hopeful that I have the knowledge to make my next postpartum period much better even if PPD comes back. Knowledge is my fight song. ~Alicia

I climb for mamas and families who have struggled and who might struggle. I felt so alone during my battle and I’d give anything to help another mama not feel that way. ~ Anna

I’m climbing for my little peanut and for all the mamas out there fighting! Six months postpartum! I thought I’d never get to this point or feel like myself again. So grateful for my support team and Postpartum Progress! ~ Sylvia

I am Climbing so that other moms can also enjoy moments like this without guilt or shame over all the moments they missed because of postpartum depression and anxiety. So that every last mother who wonders if her illness ruined her child forever can be present enough to realize that the answer is an emphatic “no.” So that the hundreds of thousands of us who were and are in the darkness of mental illness – and all those who love us – can rise up to bring each other into the light of transparency and community. ~ Bethany

I am in the midst of recovery again, though light years ahead of where I was four years ago. So this year, I Climb for myself, my two incredible daughters and the husband that has been my rock throughout both struggles. I Climb for the mothers who are suffering silently in shame, and those suffering who don’t even know that this is not how motherhood is supposed to be. And most importantly I talk to anyone that will listen, in the hopes that anyone who knows a mom that may benefit from my experience can and will share it. ~ Lesley

Why I climb…
– in celebration of coming through hell
– in thanksgiving for the deep love I now have for my son
– in support of all the other mamas out there who struggle
– to make people aware of the seriousness of PPD and related illnesses
– because “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it any more” that maternal mental illnesses aren’t taken seriously by some, and that so many medical providers have no idea how to handle any cases they encounter.
– to show that I’m a SURVIVOR and a WARRIOR ~ Mariah

Why I climb… Because I miss “me.” Because my husband misses “me.” And my kids should know the full “me,” too. ~ Jessica

I climb because 4 years ago I was crippled in fear of my thoughts. I could not move, nor did I want to.
But Postpartum Progress opened my eyes and had me name my illness, postpartum OCD & depression.
There is hope, it is not permanent. ~ Chrissy

As of this morning, there are more than 2,100 Climbers registered to participate in Climb Out of the Darkness, and they have raised $191,000 for Postpartum Progress. If you’d like to register to join us or to donate to help us reach our $200,000 goal this year, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/COTD2015.

Photo credit: Fotolia/jessivanova


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100 Mothers Display Their Strength After PPD & Anxiety [video]

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If you feel alone. If you feel ashamed. If you’re still lost. If you haven’t told anyone yet. Or ever. If you feel like you’ll never get better. If you have gotten better and yet you still look over your shoulder.  If you still grieve for the moments that have been lost to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. If you’re looking for people who’ve been where you are and who truly understand. If you’re ANY of these things, watch this video. 

Postpartum Progress is so happy to launch our official video for Climb Out of the Darkness® 2015. We’re thrilled that we were able to secure the approval to use Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” thanks to Sony ATV. We’re thrilled that around 100 Warrior Moms shared their pictures from around the world so that we could show you

We hope you give this video a thumbs up on YouTube. We hope you share it with other mothers who have been through or are going through maternal mental illness, and the people who care for them.

Even more, we hope you:

1) Take your own Warrior Mom muscle pic, upload it to your Instagram account, AND BE SURE to include the hashtags #climbout #warriormom and #myfightsong. We’ll share those pics on Instagram (follow us on Instagram at @postpartumprogress and you can see the photos we’ve already put up) and on Facebook.

2) Join us at your local Climb Out of the Darkness next weekend. You can find a list of Climbs and how to join them here:  http://postpartumprogress.org/climb-out-of-the-darkness/find-a-climb/  Registration is free. And if you go, you’ll very likely be meeting at least one of the mothers appearing in our video!

3) Ask someone to donate on your behalf! Anyone can donate to the Climb here.

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