BabyCenter Finds PPD Moms Don’t Seek Help Due To Guilt & Shame

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BABYCENTERBabyCenter®, the number one pregnancy and parenting digital resource, recently asked 1,400 moms about their experience with postpartum depression and found that 40% said they didn’t seek medical help for their illness. Their reasons for avoiding reaching out for help included feeling like they should or did have the strength to get over the feelings without a doctor’s help (30 percent), believing their symptoms weren’t serious enough (25 percent), or feeling too much embarrassment (24 percent) and guilt (23 percent).

 “This study revealed serious findings that need to be addressed,” says Linda Murray, BabyCenter Global Editor in Chief. “Depression is dangerous for women and their babies, and untreated depression can become worse and lead to other complications. Depression affects people from all walks of life, but new moms are particularly susceptible given the stress of becoming a parent, lack of sleep, and hormonal changes. We want moms to understand that seeking help for PPD isn’t something to be embarrassed or ashamed about; in fact, it’s one of the most important things they can do for the well-being of their babies.”

Postpartum Progress is thrilled that BabyCenter put its resources behind taking a deeper look at postpartum depression and how it affects women. It’s so important to understand the barriers that prevent moms from seeking treatment to get the help they need. It stands out to me that the results of the survey found in particular that women felt they should be able to get over PPD themselves or that their symptoms weren’t serious enough to need professional help — those are beliefs we can effectively change by raising awareness about this illness and how it can affect both mom and baby when untreated.

In response to the findings of their study and to lend support to the cause of maternal mental health, BabyCenter is now graciously allowing me to blog regularly on their site to shed additional light on PPD and remind new and expecting moms that there is no shame in feelings of anxiety or depression. If you are experiencing PPD, please know that getting treated as soon as possible is important. Please go check out my very first post on BabyCenter: Asking for Help for PPD: Failure or Fierceness?

“I can’t stress enough that PPD is treatable, but only if moms ask for help,” says psychologist Susan Bartell. “It can be hard, but moms don’t need to be afraid to seek support during this difficult time. And it’s important for moms to remember that help comes in many forms ranging from friends who simply fold your laundry to therapy.”

About BabyCenter

BabyCenter® is the voice of the 21st Century Mom® and modern motherhood. It’s the number one pregnancy and parenting digital destination worldwide, reaching more than 40 million moms monthly in 11 languages across 14 owned and operated properties from Australia to India to China. In the United States, 7 in 10 babies born last year were BabyCenter babies. BabyCenter is the world’s partner in parenting, providing moms everywhere with trusted advice from hundreds of experts around the globe, friendship with other moms like them, and support that’s remarkably right at every stage of their child’s development. BabyCenter is a member of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies.

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Minority Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion Survey

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postpartum depressionPostpartum Progress is hard at work behind the scenes to improve our support and inclusion of minority and underserved women in our community outreach and engagement. While we often feature stories on the blog from mothers of color and offering Spanish versions of the blog and nonprofit’s website are in the works, we want to go above  our current efforts to develop programs and initiatives that will reach and engage minority women both online and off, all across the country.

However, in order to do that, we first need to know what your experiences have been, and what we can do better to help you. We’ve spent the last month developing a survey that we hope will help us gain some insight into what women of color experience with their mental health during pregnancy and postpartum, levels of awareness & education on postpartum mood disorders, cultural stigma, and barriers to treatment you’ve faced.

It will help us determine what kind of support you desire and how Postpartum Progress can improve on building a community that’s inclusive.

The survey was created by our new intern Denise Carter from Emory University’s Rolllin’s School of Public Health, with input from myself based on my personal experience with PPD and anxiety. Denise is currently getting her Master of Public Health in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education. She also has a Bachelor’s in social work, with minors in non-profit management and African-American studies. She has extensive experience and a passion for helping women of color care for and improve their mental health-we are thrilled to have her helping us!

The survey is 100% confidential and anonymous-your identity will not be tracked. Please feel free to answer honestly and with as much detail as possible. The more we know about your experience with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and what kind of support you need, the better we can help be an effective and valuable organization: changing the landscape of maternal healthcare locally and globally. Will you join us in this mission?

You can access the survey here: http://fluidsurveys.com/s/minority-engagement/

Questions, comments? Send them to us: addyeb@icloud.com or denise.carter02@gmail.com

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Postpartum Depression Screening is More Than Just a Questionnaire

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I was one of the lucky mothers who was screened for postpartum depression after the birth of my child. My daughter’s pediatrician administered the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to me at my daughter’s first few check-ups.

Unfortunately,Postpartum Depression Screening it wasn’t until about six weeks after my daughter was born that I started to exhibit noticeable signs of anxiety and depression and at that time I was no longer being screened at my daughter’s appointments and my OB didn’t offer any screening or questioning at the routinely scheduled six-week postpartum exam.

Even though the screening tool wasn’t what shed light on my illness and linked me to the treatment I eventually received in order to recover, I do believe the simple practice of screening made a positive impact on me.

When the pediatric nurse first handed me the short questionnaire I remember feeling surprised, but also relieved that some attention was being paid to me, the mother. It showed me that my daughter’s pediatrician recognized that my health was directly related to the health of my baby. And if she was going to adequately care for the tiny human I brought in to her, then she had to make sure I was thriving too.

Later, when I began to show symptoms of anxiety that were not within the normal range of emotions for postpartum mothers, it was my daughter’s doctor who I felt most comfortable discussing my initial concerns with. After all, she is the one who screened me and to me that meant she cared.

The fact that I was screened also removed some of the stigma I felt early on in my illness. Of course, I still felt the guilt, shame, and embarrassment that many sufferers of postpartum depression feel, but I was a little more willing to step forward and reach out because the screening helped me realize that what I was suffering from was real and I could get help.

Ultimately, I want pediatricians, OBs, and primary care doctors to know that screening for postpartum depression not only provides useful information to help the patient move forward and get treatment, but it also sends a message to that mother that she is cared for and that it’s okay to ask for help. In my case, the fact that I was screened made more of an impact on me than the screening itself.

Every mother deserves the kind of care that was provided to me and it’s time more doctors stepped up to the plate and assumed responsibility for helping mothers find their way through these miserable illnesses. My daughter’s doctor wasn’t my therapist or my psychiatrist, but by screening me she helped me realize that some of the things I was feeling were not normal and that I needed to find the right doctors to help me.

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Mental Illness & The Tyranny of Forms

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postpartum depression formsI was recently contacted by a Warrior Mom, one who sought and received treatment for her PPD as one should, who had to fill out some forms for something that is very important to her family.  As she was filling out one particular form she came to this question:

“If either applicant has received treatment for a nervous or mental disorder, explain and attach.”

She told me how much she was concerned and even upset by the question, noting it made her experience with maternal mental illness feel worse to her somehow. She was afraid to answer truthfully as though it meant she might not be worthy of what she was seeking.

Ahhhh, the tyranny of forms. There’s nothing that makes me stop and pause like having to filling out an important form — often one required by some agency of government — for me to get something I want or really need, and arriving at ye olde mental illness question.

Why are they asking me this? What business is it of theirs? Why do I have to explain to anyone that I have suffered anxiety and then explain and attach? When you say attach, exactly how much of my experience do I need to explain to you?

ANDPLUSALSO, why the hell does this question seem to come up adjacent to the section where I’m asked if  I’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?

Do these form making people not know that my mental illness — anxiety/OCD — is just an illness?

I notice that none of these forms ask me if I’ve ever had strep throat (yes). Or hepatitis (yes, but not the dangerous one). Or mononucleosis (yes). I haven’t had to explain and attach a list of the surgeries and hospitalizations I’ve received (3 for my spine and 2 outpatient for kidney stones, plus 2 babies, thank you very much). No one has requested a dissertation from me on that time I got pleurisy.

You get the point. When you ask someone a question about mental illness on an important form, what you are saying-without-saying is that it’s a problem. Mental illness is different. Separate. You have a problem. You yourself may be a problem. It’s inferred loud and clear.

I notice no one asks me the good things about myself on these forms — not whether I got good grades, or am a nice person, or if I volunteer or am helpful to others. When you only ask if I’ve ever done anything bad on this form and then you also ask me about mental illness, it’s like you’re saying, “Wink, wink and all, but if you answer yes to this question then you may be an issue. You may not get what you’re trying to get, which you may still 100% deserve. We’ve now got a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to you and what you’re asking for. It’s a crapshoot from this point on.”

I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. I think it’s unfair and also crappy. And I don’t deserve it. Yes, I sure as hell have received treatment for a mental disorder, and you sure as hell have have no business stigmatizing me, ESPECIALLY when you are a federal or state government which spends gobs of money on reducing stigma!

And don’t get me wrong, I realize in certain cases this question needs to be asked. You want to make sure I’m not in a position where I might do harm to myself or others. But why not ask me that then? Or some other question? Why ask the blanket “Have you ever received treatment for a mental disorder?” as though all of us are lurking around the corner ready to pounce?

I recently attended an event at the Scattergood Foundation where we talked about trauma informed care. It’s all about the idea that you shouldn’t re-victimize people who are already victims. We were taking a look at a variety of forms that elderly in poverty in the Philadelpia area would need to fill out to access much-needed services, and we were asked to redesign those forms using the principles of trauma informed care. How hard are they to fill out? How will the people filling them out feel or be impacted by the questions they’re asked? Will they decide not to fill out the form to get something they truly need because they are afraid of answering?

As described by the Trauma Informed Care Project, “Becoming ‘trauma-informed’ means recognizing that people often have many different types of trauma in their lives. People who have been traumatized need support and understanding from those around them. Often, trauma survivors can be re-traumatized by well-meaning caregivers and community service providers.” Yes. A million times over, yes. I see this happen to mothers with maternal mental illness so often. I’ve watched women suffer the PTSD in that sixth stage of PPD for years after they fully recovered from the PPD itself precisely because of that kind of lack of understanding and application of trauma informed care in every corner of this nation and the world.

The exercise at Scattergood was fascinating and it made me think about how often mothers are traumatized by the questions they are asked. Every form, script, brochure and communication needs a good going-over, and not by people who are healthcare experts but by the women who have lived experience. I know one of the reasons for Postpartum Progress’ success is that we’ve always operated from a position of trauma informed principles, mainly because we are survivors ourselves and we know how crucial it is to connect in an authentic, understanding and trustworthy way with each mom who struggles.  Still, we have a long way to go.

Photo credit: © bst2012 – Fotolia.com

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