Moms: You Are Not Alone

Lauren HaleLauren Hale (@unxpctdblessing)a two time postpartum mood disorder survivor who describes herself as having “turned peer supporter and  advocate for families struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders [PMDs].”   She  also hosts #ppdchat  on Twitter for families struggling with PMDs.  She joined #hchlitss on March 1, 2012 to continue our discussion of mental health literacy.

What is PPD or Postpartum Mood Disorders? 

“A Postpartum Mood Disorder (PMD) is when a mother experiences psychological issues within 12 months of giving birth.  PMD issues can range from anxiety to depression to OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] to PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] or even to Psychosis, which is a medical emergency.”

One of the participants clarified that “PPD” specifically refers to “Post-Partum Depression.”

Does anyone have an understanding of the causes?

“Researchers are still working but many believe hormones are involved. [It’s]  not always the case.  [It’s] important to mention[that] thyroid issues, iron deficiency, and some vitamin deficiencies may simulate PPD symptoms.  [It is } important to rule out other causes before hopping on an anti-depressant.”

So is there any information out there that educates women about PPD?

There are several blogs, websites, and organizations doing wonderful work to educate women and providers.  Postpartum Support International is a great place to start. So is Postpartum Progress.

Peer support is a key component [to care] –[It] reduces[the] isolation in our struggle [which has a ] HUGE impact. “

A participant shared her “ favorite resource for info[rmation] and community regarding PPMDs is [Postpartum Progress] and #PPDChat [facilitated by Lauren]  is a hugely helpful resource in this area.”

Are medical providers uneducated about PPD/ PPMD?

“They can be – PPD/PMD is still not largely covered in medical training.  Also, peri-natal women see a large variation of providers which makes it difficult to narrow down education necessity.”

A participant noted that “It can also be really difficult to find a counselor/therapist who is knowledgeable [about] PPMD.”

Another participant shared that “family doctors are [need education].  [I] explained my symptoms,[my family doctor] never suggested beyond PPD and PPA [post-partum anxiety]. “

A third participant offered another example of her experience with a health care provider. “ I found it more harmful to see a counselor who was uneducated…than not to see one.  [They] blew PPD off.”

Yet another participant stated, “My PCP [primary care physician] would love more info on PMD, she says they are seeing more cases and have no information.”

In your opinion, what are the primary challenges women face regarding mental health literacy? 

“I feel the primary challenge with women and M[ental] H[ealth] Literacy lies with Stigma, particularly around birth.   I also think a large part lies in fear and the ‘just get over it’ mentality which permeates our culture.  Disappointment in how [the] birth went [and/or] traumatic birth can also factor into experiencing a PMD which leads to further stigma….”

“When you feel you have to suck it up and be “supermom,” things get worse.  [These are] definitely a few of the reasons women have trouble reaching out.   There are also (as with many) financial and insurance barriers to reaching out for help.”

A participant opined that “Stigma is the major problem for anyone with mental health issues.”

Another participant shared her experience.  “ The stigma expanded for me, as a Christian, with people saying crap like “Your faith is lacking” or “You need to pray more…. That sentence: “your faith is lacking,” is a key component in the downfall of my mental health and my marriage.   Lots of invalidation of feelings happens around birth and new motherhood.   If your experience is atypical, it’s confusing.”

Can you identify the challenges facing providers in dealing with moms?

Lauren answered, “Medicaid in most states only covers six to eight weeks post birth.   PPD typically occurs at two to three months.  One of the biggest [issues] – is not having a solid referral network set up in order to deal with moms who are struggling. Providers may also dismiss PMD symptoms as average “new mom” exhaustion. Providers need to dig deeper and don’t be afraid to ask questions if something feels off.”

One participant shared that, “There can be fear of CPS (Child Protective Services) being called, fear of job security, concerns for security clearance for military spouses.”

Another participant believes that,  “Friends/family members need to be targeted in education about PPMD …[They need to] not be afraid to ask questions and push new moms to get help.”

What are the warning signs? What do family and friends and new moms need to know?

Some of the signs are, “If a mom is not herself, sad and withdrawing, anxious, not wanting to be with [her] baby or is hyper-vigilant.”

Other signs include, “Psychosis [is the] most important to know – [if the mother is having] hallucinations, delusions, etc., [it is a] medical emergency, [and the mother should be taken to the] ER (Emergency Room) immediately.”

“Another important symptom is rage or anger.  [It is} Not listed [in] a lot of places, but MANY mothers experience it.  I think all parents worry about their children,  but ‘Intrusive thoughts’ are completely different and atrocious.  Intrusive thoughts are a component of Postpartum OCD, which is what I struggled with after my daughters.  My thoughts involved knives the first time around, suffocation, the second. [I] Became obsessive.

 “Yes, [the thoughts] can be very violent… and unprovoked.  With Postpartum OCD, though, a mother rarely acts on her intrusive thoughts.  She is immediately disgusted by them.  With Psychosis, however, these thoughts become logical and she is more likely to act on them.”

A participant offered a website address, “I also like Postpartum Progress Plain-Mama English’s list of symptoms, especially for new moms.  Plain-Mama English PPD/PPMD symptoms:  PPD/PPMD can also feel like just not feeling anything. I felt numb a lot with mine.”

Lauren’s final thought was that, “It’s important for moms to know PPD/PMD is not something to be ashamed of…they’re not alone and there is help.”


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