Much to Do

I haven’t been able to post for a while, with so much going on in my work and family life. But I’m back with a vengeance today, as you can hopefully see by the handful of postings I’ve made.

I heard from Shirley Halverson a while back. Her daughter died as a result of postpartum psychosis, and she wrote her daughter’s story in a book called Beth: A Story of Postpartum Psychosis. It is available at or

Shirley says their experience with the medical field was indescribable, and that they knew nothing in 1986. Sadly enough, so many OB/GYNs, primary care physicians and others still know very little and seem unprepared to treat many of us in 2004.

I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to who have been ignored, been told it’s just the baby blues, been told they’ll get better with exercise and rest, been told they can’t be treated because they don’t have the right kind of insurance to cover psychiatric care. The list goes on. I talked to a young woman last week (hey Pam!) who is a nurse working in a trauma unit of a hospital, and she said she was completely unprepared for her illness, and neither are any of her colleagues. She felt bad that she herself didn’t get the best help available immediately, and she feels bad that other women who come to her hospital may not get the right help either. So she has begun to work to fix that situation.

We all need to work to fix that situation.

Dr. Phil

I sent the following e-mail to Dr. Phil today. I sent a similar one to Oprah probably a year ago and never heard back. We’ll see what happens …

Dr. Phil, Why is it that the bill to pass the Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act (H.R. 846 and S. 450) is still languishing in Congress 3 YEARS after it was introduced? Why is it that the nearly 400,000 new mothers who suffer each year often find there are no support groups and weak understanding by many doctors as to the best way to treat it? Why is it that OB/GYNs in every single state in America aren’t required to ask new mothers a series of questions at their six-week check-up to look for signs of postpartum depression, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder and postpartum psychosis?

We’ve GOT to get more coverage of the seriousness of this illness, both for the women who go through it (as I did) and for all the children who deserve mentally healthy mothers. I’ve tried my best – an essay of my experience appeared in the June 7 issue of Newsweek this year, and I’ve started a blog called Postpartum Progress that is written from the perspective of mothers going through it. Other people are also trying their best, like Carol Blocker, who worked tirelessly to get the Blocker-Stokes bill introduced after her daughter killed herself during postpartum psychosis. There are countless individuals who know how devastating this illness is and who are trying to do their part, but our power is not being harnessed to make a difference in more women’s lives. We can’t continue to let this go on and on. Please, please do a show on the subject — while so many others with a public voice simply to choose to cover the sensational side of this issue — whenever a sufferer kills either herself or her child — what we really need is to get down to brass tacks about what needs to be done to get women the proper treatment as soon as possible.

By the Numbers

In so many books and articles and news programs you hear the statistic: approximately 10-15% of women suffer from postpartum disorders, including postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder. What bothers me about that statistic is that it holds no meaning for most people — and because of that I think this illness gets much less attention and much less funding than so many of the other prevalent illnesses that strike Americans. As a result, I decided to do a bit of quick research to help people understand the real impact that postpartum depression is having on the women of our country.

According to the National Center of Health Statistics, there were a little over 4 million live births in 2002 (4,021,726) in the United States. If you take the conservative number used by most everyone when discussing postpartum disorders (10%), that means that each year approximately 400,000 women suffer a serious post partum illness.

How does that compare with other the number of people diagnosed with other illnesses?

* Each year, approximately 50,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
* Each year, approximately 250,000 people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
* Each year, approximately 10,400 people are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis according to the National MS Society.
* Each year, approximately 800,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes.

In 2001, 550,000 died of cancer according to the American Cancer Society. Almost as many women are falling ill with postpartum disorders each year as people are dying of cancer. I doubt people realize that. And what’s even more interesting to me (and I’m no statistician) is that the statistics from those other illnesses represent the general population of men and women, whereas the 400,000 postpartum sufferers are only drawn from the female population.

This really is a big problem, and deserves more attention than it’s getting.

Tags: postpartum depression statistics postpartum mood disorders

From One State to 50

Did you know that last year the State of Texas enacted legislation, House Bill 341 (also known as the “Andrea Yates Bill) that requires healthcare providers who treat pregnant women to provide them with resource information regarding counseling for postpartum depression and other emotional traumas associated with pregnancy and parenting? I wonder …

* How many other states require similar education?
* How clear and comprehensive is the education Texas is requiring? (I hope it’s not the normal “baby blues brush-off” most women get.)
* How does Texas enforce this?

I think it’s great that Texas has taken this step, and it’s one that deserves attention from state governments across the country.

Tags: postpartum depression Texas