Announcing the Warrior Mom™ Conference Schedule

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Warrior Mom ConferenceThere are only 37 days until Warrior Moms from around the world gather in Boston for the first ever patient-centered conference on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  And as we get closer to this groundbreaking event, we have some exciting news to share as we welcome Cotton Babies as our national conference sponsor!

For years we have urged the business community to recognize the significance of how perinatal mood and anxiety disorders deeply affect women and children. We have asked them to support our work, but it has fallen on deaf ears. This is why our gratitude to Cotton Babies knows no bounds. A corporation is recognizing how important maternal mental health is and by supporting our conference they are making a statement publicly that they stand by and support Warrior Moms. We can’t wait to work with them and we can’t wait for you to meet them at the Conference! Thank you Cotton Babies!

Cotton Babies Brandmark-Final

We’re also excited to release our conference schedule to the public this week – you can find our 2015 Speakers & Agenda on the Warrior Mom™ Conference Webpage.  We still have a few tricks up our sleeves and a few details to announce, so stay tuned and be sure you’re following all the latest Warrior Mom™ Conference news on our dedicated Facebook page!

Lastly, if you haven’t sent in your art, stories, and poems to the Warrior Mom Wall project, you still have until June 15th!  Find out all you need to know so you can be included in the final art project and have your work shared on the @postpartumprogress instagram account!

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Antenatal depression and antenatal anxiety: Jen’s story

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antidepressants pregnancyI struggled with undiagnosed antenatal depression and antenatal anxiety.  I felt like such a fraud.  My husband and I had planned for this baby.  I should have been overjoyed and glowing.  Instead I walked around in a fog of self-hatred, irritability, and unrelenting worry.  My internal monologue consisted of, “I should be happy, dammit!” Why couldn’t I enjoy this pregnancy?  It was my final pregnancy, and we were giving our nearly three-year old daughter a sibling.  Where was my pregnancy glow?  Why did I feel like all I did was complain, vent and whine?

Why couldn’t  I relax?  I felt so much pressure to get my oldest potty trained before the new baby arrived.  I felt like all loose ends needed to be tied up.  I had to finish my toddler’s baby book before the new baby arrived.  I had to make sure I was exercising daily.  I had to maintain a tight control on my blood sugar.  I had gestational diabetes with my first pregnancy, so I spent my final pregnancy watching my food intake.  Every time I heard a comment about “eating for two”, I wanted to rage.  I did not have that luxury of eating whatever I wanted.  The meal plan made me miserable.  If my numbers weren’t within the expected range, I immediately panicked.  I was terrified that my daughter would struggle with complications from my gestational diabetes.  Not even the ultrasound showing a healthy twenty week baby girl diminished those fears.  I felt like I had no right to complain or worry.  I knew what to expect.  I needed to just suck it up and deal with it.

Like postpartum depression, antenatal depression looks different for each mama.  My lovely friend Susan describes her antenatal depression like this.  “I just remember feeling a crushing weight and numbness. I wanted to not be pregnant anymore and had thoughts of throwing myself down the stairs. That’s what sent me to a perinatal psychiatrist. All my joy left like I was in a vacuum – and I was suddenly convinced a new baby was the end of everything as I knew it.”

My experience of antenatal depression differed from Susan’s.  My depression manifested itself in extreme irritability, bordering on rage.  I had no patience for anything – traffic, my husband, my daughter, my parents and my sister, my friends, and my co-workers. One of the triggers for my rage was my daughter’s refusal to take naps on the weekends.  I could barely control my reaction.  I would yell and scream at my husband.  I would need to leave the house to give myself an adult timeout.  I still cringe when I remember an epic tantrum that occurred during my seventh month of pregnancy.  I was at a concert at an outdoor venue.  I cut in front of everyone waiting in line for the bathroom and for water, simply because I was pregnant.  I was rude to everyone that day. I took out my rage on anyone in my path.  This irritability and rage manifested itself in full-blown postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety after my youngest was born.  I wish I had recognized these signs sooner.  I could have treated this during my pregnancy when my initial struggle began.

Antenatal depression and antenatal anxiety are not as widely known as the other perinatal mood disorders.  We do moms a disservice when we fail to screen for depression and anxiety during pregnancy.  We need to focus on both the needs of the mother and the needs of the baby.  Mothers are vulnerable during both pregnancy and the postpartum period.  Ask the pregnant mom how she is doing and really listen.  I read this amazing piece that Andrew Solomon wrote regarding depression in pregnancy.  Thank you Andrew for speaking up for both the mothers and the babies.  If you are feeling fragile, do not read Andrew’s piece.

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The Racial & Ethnic Disparities of Identifying & Treating Postpartum Depression

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Jasmine BanksDid you ever wonder if you were suffering from postpartum depression because a friend talked to you about their experience? Did you read a book that reflected your experiences? If you found a narrative that fit with your experience, did you have access to health care because you had a treatment team that believed you?

Often times women dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety will report their difficulties finding a diagnosis and/or helpful treatment and support. Everyone is still working hard to understand PPD and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. As part of this conversation, though, there are two key words that are often overlooked: Exposure and access. These two words are important factors that impact the well-being of protected classes of people. Protected classes of people often have double the difficulty when dealing with maternal mental illness because in order to obtain help you have to be exposed to stories and information that reflect your experience, and then you need access to the processes that allow you to obtain help.

Postpartum depression is a serious debilitating illness that affects approximately 10-20% of women. This statistic, though, is a measure of women who were able to identify what they were going through. Imagine the women, for instance women of color, who aren’t added to this statistic because they don’t have exposure and access to understand what they are suffering with?

A psychiatric study by Katy Backes Kozhimannil and her colleagues yielded results that concluded that, “… there were significant racial-ethnic differences in depression-related mental health care after delivery.” These results outline a stark reality for women of color: they are less likely to be screened for PPD, and less likely to get treatment and receive follow-up care. The results also showed that it was more likely for treatment teams to attribute symptoms of Black and Latin women to other ailments, and not PPD.

To make it plain, while many women are never screened, women of color are bypassed in the screening process even more so, and when they do display symptoms of PPD, other factors are often blamed, so these moms won’t get the help they really need. This reality means it is vital for women who are at risk for perinatal mood disorders to be strong self-advocates. How, the question becomes, can one advocate for something that you haven’t been made aware of? If you have been exposed, how then does one self-create access in a system that either doesn’t offer access to people who look like you, or offers less-effective help or many fewer options?

Awareness for postpartum depression is increasing, yet there are still women who are falling through the cracks due to systemic oppression and racism. We must care for the most vulnerable among us. The Postpartum depression conversation should involve early intervention, treatment, and awareness for ALL women.

The study I mentioned above also cited:

“The differences in initiation and continuation of care uncovered in this study imply that a disproportionate number of black women and Latinas who suffer from postpartum depression do not receive needed services. These differences represent stark racial-ethnic disparities potentially related to outreach, detection, service provision, quality, and processes of postpartum mental health care. Although suboptimal detection and treatment rates are not uncommon for this condition or in this population (7,42,43), these results emphasize that postpartum depression remains an underrecognized (sic) and undertreated (sic) condition for all low-income women, especially for those from racial and ethnic minority groups.”

Over the next 6 weeks I’ll be having leading a conversation here at PostpartumProgress.com about ways to improve the conversation as it relates to women of color and postpartum depression. We will talk about stigma, social constraints, patient-provider communication, and involving more women of color in the change agency efforts. Postpartum Progress means progress for ALL women, which means some difficult and important conversations. I hope you’ll join me.

Jasmine Banks is a writer and Mental Health Professional with a Master’s of Community Counseling and a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and Communications. Jasmine is a Postpartum Psychosis and Depression survivor. You can find more from her on her blog JustJasmineBlog.com or on Instagram (Djazzo).

Founder’s note: One of the goals at Postpartum Progress is to expand our reach and support so that all women are getting the information and help they need. As you all know, in general most women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are not getting the right help. It is also true, though, that women of color get even less access and have even fewer options than the general population. I’ve been an advocate for more than a decade now and I know this to be true because I have seen it with my own eyes. I’m thrilled that Jasmine is joining us to share her experience and knowledge so that we can open our eyes to what all types of women are experiencing and figure out what we can do better. ~ Katherine

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Stand Together for Moms With Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

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climb tee 2015Three years ago Postpartum Progress started an event called Climb Out of the Darkness®. We had no idea what it would become. We only knew we needed an event that would bring together moms from around the country and around the world who wanted to stand together, publicly, to raise their voices and stand up for maternal mental health.

The 3rd annual Climb Out of the Darkness is happening this June, on Saturday June 20th in most locations. At this event, moms like you (and hopefully, INCLUDING YOU) will walk paths and hike trails in solidarity with every mom who has ever had and will ever have postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, postpartum PTSD, or depression or anxiety during pregnancy. We want the world to know how common perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are, and that we need more and better help.

There are already more than 1,200 registered participants in the 2015 Climb Out of the Darkness. The events are being held in places like Anchorage, Alaska and Gainesville, Florida. London, England, and Topeka, Kansas. Concord, Massachusetts and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Detroit, Michigan and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Raleigh, North Carolina and Camano Island, Washington. We currently have 10 Climbs in California, 8 in Texas, 6 in Pennsylvania, and 6 in Washington, and in Colorado and in Florida. There are 5 each in Michigan and New Jersey. We have group Climbs and we have private family and solo Climbs. We have teams led by survivors, teams led by doulas, teams led by therapists and teams led by hospitals.

climb map 5 26 2015

The more of you who join in, and bring along the family members and friends and colleagues who care about you and who care about the mental health of mothers, the better. When we join together in massive numbers, we cannot be sidelined. We cannot be ignored. It’s easy to participate. Registration is free. You are not required to raise money, but if you do decide to fundraise for our nonprofit and you raise $100 or more prior to June 30th, you will receive our official 2015 Climb Out of the Darkness t-shirt (the design is pictured above).

No matter your level of participation, we want you to be part of the Climb. If you’d like to see what it looks like to be standing side by side with other women who have been through exactly what you have, check out some of our photos from past Climbs.  If you have questions, check out our FAQ. If you want to find and join the Climb closest to you, check out our map and Climb listing. If you don’t see a team in your area and want to start one, go for it!! Just email our event manager Amanda Hope at climboutofthedarkness@gmail.com.

If you were thinking you were alone in the world when it comes to struggling with PPD or a related illness, just look where women are climbing!!

  • Alabama: Anniston, Huntsville, Tuscaloosa
  • Alaska: Anchorage
  • Arizona: Phoenix, Tucson
  • Arkansas: River Valley
  • California: Berkeley, LA/Valley, Long Beach, Mission Peak, Palmdale, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Barbara, Upland, Walnut Creek
  • Colorado: Boulder, Colorado Springs, Durango, Ft. Collins, Red Rocks
  • Connecticut: Meridien, Fairfield, New Haven
  • Delaware: Wilmington
  • Florida: Gainesville, Miami, Orlando, Sarasota, Satellite Beach, West Palm Beach
  • Georgia: Atlanta, Savannah, St. Mary’s
  • Illinois: Chicago Downtown, Chicago Western Suburbs, Mt. Vernon, Rockford
  • Indiana: Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis, New Albany
  • Iowa: Mason City
  • Kansas: Topeka, Wichita
  • Kentucky: Louisville
  • Louisiana: New Orleans
  • Maine: Portland
  • Maryland: Baltimore, Gaithersburg, Hagerstown
  • Massachusetts: Concord, Groton, Lincoln, Worcester Co.
  • Michigan: Detroit, Grand Haven, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing
  • Missouri: Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis
  • Montana: Missoula
  • Nevada: Las Vegas, Mesquite
  • New Hampshire: Portsmouth
  • New Jersey: Chatham, Hoboken, Jersey Shore, Lincroft, Long Valley
  • New York: Buffalo, NYC, Rochester, Hudson Valley/Housatonic (CT)
  • North Carolina: Charlotte, Raleigh
  • North Dakota: Bismarck
  • Ohio: Cincinnati, Newark
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma City, Tulsa
  • Oregon: Corvallis, Eugene, Portland
  • Pennsylvania: Central PA, Emmaus, Lancaster County, New Castle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • Rhode Island: North Kingstown
  • South Carolina: Charleston, Little River
  • Tennessee: Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville
  • Texas: Amarillo, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Ft. Worth, El Paso, Houston, Pearland, Tyler
  • Utah: Ogden, Salt Lake City, Springville
  • Virginia: Centerville, Fairfax/Loudoun Counties, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Virginia Beach
  • Washington: Bellingham, Camano Island, Kitsap, Olympia, Redmond/Bellevue, Seattle
  • Alberta: East Red Deer County, Edmonton
  • British Columbia: Kelowna, Victoria
  • Nova Scotia: Cape Breton, Halifax
  • Ontario: Ottawa, York
  • Saskatchewan: Moose Jaw, Regina
  • Prince Edward Island: Charlottetown
  • United Kingdom: London
  • United Arab Emirates: Dubai

 

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