15% of New Moms Experience Mental Problems

I'm sure you've all heard by now and all I can say is "Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!!!!!!!!" The new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about postpartum mood disorders confirms what so many of us have believed for so long. And just so you know, if 15% of new moms have PPD, that means that 600,000 women in the U.S. alone are experiencing these illnesses every single year. This means there are millions and millions of women like us out there.

From the Associated Press: New moms face increased risks for a variety of mental problems, not just postpartum depression, according to one of the largest studies of psychiatric illness after childbirth.

New dads aren't as vulnerable, probably because they don't experience the same physical and social changes associated with having a baby, the researchers and other experts said.

The study, based on medical records of 2.3 million people over a 30-year period in Denmark, found that the first three months after women have their first baby is riskiest, especially the first few weeks. That's when the tremendous responsibility of caring for a newborn hits home.

During the first 10 to 19 days, new mothers were seven times more likely to be hospitalized with some form of mental illness than women with older infants. Compared with women with no children, new mothers were four times more likely to be hospitalized with mental problems.

New mothers also were more likely than other women to get outpatient psychiatric treatment.

However, new fathers did not have a higher risk of mental problems when compared with fathers of older infants and men without children.

The prevalence of mental disorders was about 1 per 1,000 births for women and just .37 per 1,000 births for men.

The problems included postpartum depression, but also bipolar disorder, with altering periods of depression and mania; schizophrenia and similar disorders; and adjustment disorders, which can include debilitating anxiety.

The study underscores a need for psychiatric screening of all new mothers and treatment for those affected, according to an editorial accompanying the study in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. [my emphasis]

"Mental health is crucial to a mother's capacity to function optimally, enjoy relationships, prepare for the infant's birth, and cope with the stresses and appreciate the joys of parenthood," the editorial says.

Two of the editorial's three authors reported financial ties to the psychiatric drug industry. The study researchers said they had no financial ties to the industry.

They examined national data on Danish residents from around 1973 to July 2005. About 1.1 million participants became parents during the study.

A total of 1,171 mothers and 658 fathers — none in whom any previous mental health issues had been diagnosed — were hospitalized with a mental disorder after childbirth.

Lead author Trine Munk-Olsen, a researcher at Denmark's University of Aarhus, said similar risks for psychiatric problems likely would affect new parents in other developed nations including the United States. However, differences in screening practices and access to health care might influence whether parents elsewhere are hospitalized, she said.

Physical changes after childbirth might partly explain why women are vulnerable, including fluctuating hormone levels, Munk-Olsen said. These, alone or combined with sleep deprivation and the demands of breast-feeding could trigger mental problems, she said.

Hard data on the number of women worldwide affected by postpartum mental illness are scant, but postpartum depression alone affects about 15 percent of U.S. women.

The condition made headlines last year when actress Brooke Shields acknowledged taking antidepressants after her first child was born — and Tom Cruise publicly criticized her for it.

It also has been cited as a factor in shocking cases of mothers killing their children, including Andrea Yates' drowning of her five children in Texas in 2001.

Dr. Nada Stotland, a psychiatry professor at Rush Medical College in Chicago, said gender differences in postpartum mental illness are not surprising.

Mothers generally bear the brunt of sleep deprivation, and many new mothers are socially isolated or live far from relatives who could provide support, Stotland said.

She said the study likely will provoke mixed reactions.

"There may be people who say, 'My mother raised eight children and she never needed to have mental health care,' and others will say, 'Finally somebody has noticed just how stressful this is and what people go through,"' Stotland said.

California Mom’s Thought on "Whining" Mary Jo Codey, "Questionable" Antidepressants & "Trumped Up Illnesses Like Postpartum Depression"

This article by a mom who clearly has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about really annoys me. Thank goodness I have her to tell me about an illness that she doesn’t think exists since she’s never experienced it. Genius. (I wonder if she believes in cancer or diabetes?) Let me give you a few highlights:

” … With the newfangled Brooke Shields-mental-health-prostitution, many new moms read her book and say, “That’s me!” And then the moms jump on the post-partum depression bandwagon themselves, along with the little pills that supposedly cure the depression …”

” … As trumped up illnesses such as post-partum depression continue to make women feel as though we’re victims, we will spend our time talking in support groups instead of fighting for our dwindling freedoms …”

I share this, of course, because it’s an example of the stigma and ignorance that exists about mental illnesses, and in this case perinatal mood disorders. It makes me sad. I have a hard time accepting the smugness of people who are convinced they have complete control over their mental state, or that a good walk will shake off a deep depression. Perhaps Ms. Shore has a medical degree that we’re not aware of??

I agree with the premise that every illness doesn’t require medication. But the truth is, no doctor or mental health industry or advertisement or any other such thing made me think or do anything. I made the choices about being treated, working with my doctor, and I recovered. I am neither weak nor uneducated. Ms. Shore, I’d be more than happy to compare my intelligence level and accomplishments in life with yours. I think, despite my experience with postpartum depression, you’d be quite surprised.

Being concerned about the government’s involvement with medical screenings is one thing, but making light of postpartum mood disorders? Not very cool.

Tom Cruise Has Another Apology to Make

So Tom Cruise has now apologized to Brooke Shields, and she accepted his apology (see story here). Good for them both.

I, on the other hand, have not forgiven Tom Cruise. It hurt all of us when he dragged our illness into the spotlight and essentially made us feel awful for having taken medications that were prescribed to us by legitimate physicians in order to recover. It wasn’t only his comments that hurt, but also the echoing, more destructive comments from so many ignorant people around the country when this story arose because of Cruise. It was very hard to read the words of many citizens online and in print about how we’re crazy and stupid and drugged up, etc.

When he apologizes to all women who have suffered or are suffering from postpartum mood disorders, I’ll accept. Until then, I don’t plan to spend my box office dollars on his movies.

It’s okay with me that he doesn’t believe in antidepressants. No problem. But don’t judge me because I do believe in them. Don’t make me look bad in the public eye because I had to take them. They saved my life.