Launching Our Newest Tool for Moms: The New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help

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new mom checklist 150x150Just in time for Mother’s Day 2015, Postpartum Progress is thrilled to launch its newest tool for moms: The New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help.

The checklist was created to facilitate helpful conversation between struggling mothers and the clinicians who can assist them. It allows moms to check off a wide variety of evidence-based symptoms and risk factors that may indicate the presence of perinatal mood or anxiety disorders. The tool has a fifth grade reading level, and was developed with feedback from clinical experts and a diverse group of more than 30 survivors of maternal mental illness.

The objectives of the checklist are five-fold:

  1. Empower mothers to help themselves.
  2. Serve as a tool to facilitate conversations that can be difficult for mothers to start with their doctors and other care providers.
  3. Reinforce the variety of recognized, evidence-based symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders to both mothers and clinicians.
  4. Reinforce the variety of recognized, evidence-based risk factors of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders to both mothers and clinicians.
  5. Help clinicians get a clearer picture of how to best assist their patients.

The tool also helps mothers share a more comprehensive picture of what they are going through, which can be important at a time when lack of sleep and difficulty concentrating can lead them to forget key things to share at an appointment.

Postpartum Progress will also be creating printed versions that are double-sided, with larger font, in tear-off pad form to share freely with advocacy organizations and clinicians for their use. These will be available for distribution in July 2015. A checklist for pregnant moms concerned they may have depression or anxiety during pregnancy is also on the way.

The New Mom Checklist for Maternal Mental Health Help can be downloaded for free here.

This project, and all the other advocacy, events and tools created by Postpartum Progress to help moms with maternal mental illnesses, is supported by the donations of people who donate to our annual event Climb Out of the Darkness®. As always, THANK YOU.

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Cultural Beliefs that May Affect Asian American Moms’ Emotions After Birth

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Asian woman in New York City sad face

The title of “Mother” is a universal label suggesting that women who identify as mothers share the same personalities, characteristics, and preferences. Yet when we think about mothers, it is important to remember that each mother is an individual. How each woman approaches and embraces motherhood is largely informed by her familial and cultural lineage. Historical mothering practices are passed down through generations and shape her cultural narrative. These familial stories inform how she views her pregnancy, childbirth, and how she wishes to be cared for during the postpartum period.

Postpartum mood concerns are the number one complication of childbirth affecting between 15-17% of mothers. We know that perinatal mood concerns impact women of all cultural, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Several variables, such as hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, social support, and one’s own personal and family mental health history can impact a woman’s risk of developing a postpartum mood concern, such as depression or anxiety.

As health care practitioners, when we care for racially diverse women, there are several unique cultural variables that may affect a woman’s emotional well-being after her baby is born. These cultural variables are especially important to tune into, because as health care professionals we serve at the forefront of maternal care. When a mother suffers from a perinatal mood concern, it’s often obstetricians, pediatricians and midwives that are the first to notice something is awry. Educating oneself about common cultural beliefs and patterns helps build and maintain trust with new mothers and their families. This trust helps ensure that providers have the repertoire that is necessary to recommend additional psychological support when it is needed most.

There are unique nuances and a diverse array of birthing rituals and practices; here are a few examples that are common within Asian cultures:

Gender of the baby: For some families, the root of male preference is deeply imbedded in cultural beliefs. The belief is that a male child will extend the bloodline, and that sons will care for their aging parents. In certain cultures, having a female child adds pressure financially and emotionally,  because it is believed that the daughter will marry and contribute to another family. Depending upon familial cultural beliefs and practices, a woman may feel a range of emotions if she is not having the son her family desires. It’s important to note that in some Asian cultures, gender of the child may be correlated with perinatal depression.

Hot-Cold Beliefs: In certain Asian cultures, it is believed that a new mother should be in a state of “hot and cold” balance during the postpartum period. If a woman is too cold it is believed that this may slow down lactation and interfere with maternal bonding. Hot and cold practices are represented not only in temperature but also in how certain foods increase or reduce heat in our bodies. In the Western cold, women are often offered cold beverages during labor and following childbirth. However, these offerings may not be aligned with the cultural need to maintain the balance of warmth. Health care professionals can sensitively attune to these beliefs by asking women to specify their preferences for hot/cold beverages/food in their hospital birth plans. Adding these small details helps build and maintain trust during the very sensitive postpartum period.

Maternal Confinement: The belief system behind keeping a mom “confined” for up to 40 days is to aid in the recovery of childbirth. This is an opportunity for maternal bonding and for family members to provide support and security for the mothers as way to alleviate outside stress. Mehndi (also known as henna, aids in cooling, and is an herb that is applied on the hands and feet in an intricate design) helps remind the mother that she should rest until the design fades. The importance of the maternal bond is reflected in this practice. Here, the mother devotes her attention to the bond with her baby without the outside distractions and other demands in life. It’s important to note that in the Western world following childbirth, the focus shifts towards the baby. However, in many Asian cultures, the mother remains a focal point after her baby’s arrival. These practices may impact how quickly a new mother ventures out into the world and which recommendations she’s apt to find supportive during the new days and weeks of motherhood.

As healthcare providers, the more we educate ourselves about various cultural practices and the meaning of these practices, the more we can advocate for our diverse patient populations. As providers, we become strong advocates when we ask sensitive questions related to our patient’s cultural beliefs and how these beliefs impact motherhood. Supporting a woman in a way that culturally aligns with her view of motherhood can be a universal practice.

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Dr. Bindu Garapaty is a leader in the Maternal Child Health arena. She is also the co-founder of The Happy Leader, a firm focused on executive leadership development. You can connect with her on Twitter @BinduGarapaty

Dr. Juli Fraga is a perinatal psychologist in San Francisco. She also co-developed and co-faciliates a postpartum depression support group, “The Afterglow” for the UCSF hospital. You can connect with her on Twitter @dr_fraga

photo credit to fotolia

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I Am A Warrior Mom

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Warrior Mom ConferenceHere at Postpartum Progress, we choose our words with intention.  “Warrior Mom” is no exception.

Every mom’s journey through PPD is different and we all see our experiences in a way that helps and heals us.  In my six years advocating for mothers with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, I’ve met moms who call themselves “survivors,” and others who identify themselves simply as “having experienced PPD.”  And while there is no right or wrong way to think about your time struggling with depression or anxiety, for the mamas who join us here at Postpartum Progress, “Warrior Mom” resonates and empowers in a way other language falls short.

In 9 short weeks, over 100 of these amazing women will come together in Boston for the inaugural  Warrior Mom™ Conference, the first patient-centered conference on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  A few of the attendees recently shared why the phrase “Warrior Mom” resonates with them:

The phrase “Warrior Mom” makes me feels strong, like I have some control.  I’m not a victim.  I’m not “suffering” from PMADs.  I’m fighting and surviving.  When things get crazy and out of control, I can at least give myself a positive label that gives me the confidence to push on, even if only a minute at a time.  I’m not a solo warrior.  I’m part of a band of warriors in a tribe of motherhood, and that… feels a lot less lonely and hopeless than being a victim.

– Amber Swinford Dunn

 

I felt so weak after having my baby and falling apart.  I felt like there was a war for my life and my soul that I couldn’t win.  The war went on for so long and I stumbled and fell so many times.  Finally, the smoke started to clear and I could see the battlefield.  I could see fears and pain that I had slain.  I could see friends and family standing beside me, some wounded in their own ways.  I could see legions of other mamas, each fighting their own wars.  The field stretched out seemingly forever.  And that is when I finally realized who I am.  I am a warrior.  I fight for myself, for my babies, for my family.  I also fight beside every other mama out there.  I fight against stigma and for funding.  I fight for treatment and for education.  I am a warrior, forged in battle and ready to lead.

– Gra Sea

 

The phrase to me means I’ve made it through my own personal war and survived.  Although I have scars, they have healed and keep fading as time goes on.  I’m stronger for the battle I fought and I am a Warrior Mom.  I now am there for other moms going through this war, to stop the stigma and help them get past the battle.

– Tara Stafford DeTore

 

The term Warrior Mom resonates with me because in my darkest moments I would visualize myself in an empty stadium facing my nemesis.  Then slowly the stands surrounding me filled with everybody I knew was supporting me.  Each seat was occupied with someone who wanted what was best for me, was encouraging me, was helping in my recovery, or reminding me that they had been there and had come out the other side.  As a Warrior Mom™ in recovery, I had to do the work on my own, but that didn’t mean I was alone.  During a time when I felt mostly powerless to the thoughts in my head, this moment of meditation would bring me peace and awareness that I (with my army of supporters) was powerful beyond measure.

– Kersten Larson

We had so many responses to our post that we’ll be sharing the rest next week, in Part Two!  Be sure to come back for more from our amazing advocates and Warrior Moms.

For the latest in Warrior Mom™ Conference news and information (and to take part in the conference from home), be sure you’re following us over on Facebook!

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Paralyzed By Fear: I Think I Had Postpartum OCD

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221144_843371654546_2779282_oBefore I knew I had PPD and anxiety, I thought the obsession I had with making sure my son was still breathing was normal. I found out eventually that it wasn’t, but not until after I had spent months totally paralyzed by the thought of losing him to something I couldn’t control.

Instead of finding ways to calm my fears, I found myself diving deep into the blog of a family that had lost their first child to SIDS. I didn’t know the family at all. I can’t really remember how I found their blog-maybe it was a friend of a friend of a friend. Their real-life nightmare was my nightmare. I could not shake the fear that the same fate would fall upon us.

I barely slept for months. I researched every way to “prevent” it and I made that a policy. I put off crib naps as much as possible-I had to hold him so I could watch him breathe. He stayed in the Pack-n-Play in our room for over five months so he was within reach. I joked that that way I could poke him to make sure he was ok. Except it wasn’t a joke-I really did it, at least twice a night.

The thing about all of this was, I didn’t really tell anyone about it. I probably knew that I was torturing myself by obsessing over the blog, but I just couldn’t stop myself from typing that address in my browser. I knew what I was doing wasn’t all that healthy, but I didn’t really know how to stop. Once I got a therapist at seven months postpartum, we had passed the main window for SIDS loss, so I never really brought it up with her because I believed my fears were slowly subsiding. Yet, I still leaned over the crib rails every night before I went to bed and told him I loved him so it was the last thing I said to him….just in case. I still found myself holding my breath every morning until I heard him call for me. Hindsight is 20/20, so I suspect now that my therapist would’ve diagnosed me with Postpartum OCD if I had been open about it.

When the twins were born, I forked over money I didn’t really have for the portable SIDS monitors. They allowed me to sleep by quieting the voice of fear that was peeking from behind the medication I was on to keep the anxiety and depression at bay. The video monitor someone gifted us helped me, too. I wasn’t without concern, what mother is, but I was much calmer, more aware of my own actions that perpetuated my fears, and understood that I could not control everything.

Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, I wake up with that same feeling that used to keep me awake for hours. On the nights I can’t shake it, I tiptoe into their rooms and kiss their sweaty, sweet-smelling heads, and tell all three of them I love them…one more time. The fear never really left me, but I try my hardest not to let it rule me like I did for so long.

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