About 15-20% of mothers, or one in five to seven will experience postpartum depression and anxiety. There are still barriers to women seeking help for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS). Most recent data indicates that only about 50% of women will seek help.
Reducing stigma and increasing education for families as well as medical professionals can boost the odds that someone will reach out for help. It’s very important for medical providers to properly screen for PMADS and encourage care and assist with linkage.
of mothers, or one in five to seven will experience postpartum depression and anxiety.
The Anti-Stigma Coalition hosts a Facebook Live on Wednesday, April 19 at noon for a discussion about perinatal issues and how to access resources.
Panelists are LuAnne Brown, R.N., CEO, Buffalo Prenatal Perinatal Network, Alexcia “Lexi” Harrod, Vice President/Co-Founder, Melinated Moms WNY, Julie Rosinski LCSW-R,PMH, Co-Director, WNY Postpartum Connection, Inc.
The moderator is Matthew Smith, Executive Director, Preventionfocus, Inc. The event is free and open to the public and viewers will have the opportunity to ask questions during the event.
“Stigma can greatly impact moms who are experiencing PMADS,” said Rosinski. “Moms are often given well-intentioned but incorrect messages by family, friends, and medical professionals that contribute to their hesitation in seeking help. They might have their concerns dismissed as ‘just baby blues,’ that this should be the happiest time of their lives, that maternity leave is like a vacation, that they will feel instantly bonded with their baby, and several other myths that are perpetuated in motherhood and parenthood.”
According to Rosinski, moms might hold a lot of shame if they have negative thoughts or feelings about being a mom or about their baby. In some cases, moms have intrusive thoughts about harm coming to the baby. They might feel a lot of shame or fear about this and not tell anyone out of fear of hospitalization or CPS involvement.
There are many systemic barriers to seeking care as well including financial barriers or difficulty in accessing healthcare coverage. Harmful stereotypes based in systemic racism can also impact mothers of color and prevent access to care. These stereotypes can result in medical harm or neglect, and professionals not effectively screening for PMADS. In our region, the lack of culturally diverse models of care and culturally and racially diverse mental health providers can also be a barrier to care.
Rosinski has worked with women who had delayed accessing care, who were trying to muscle through it, or were hoping for the depression/anxiety would lift on its own.
“I have many moms who were also very hesitant to try medication or believed that utilizing therapy or medication meant they were a failure,” she said. “Depression causes them to believe negative thoughts and narratives about themselves. Often with proper screening from their OBGYN, Midwife, or pediatrician, or sometimes with a nudge from a concerned spouse or family member, they come to therapy or start meds. Validation, normalization, and education around what they are experiencing often lifts some of the resistance and shame, making them open to engaging in care.
We need to talk about postpartum mental health in the context of a community and society issue, not just an individual issue. Untreated postpartum mental health conditions can set into motion a negative domino effect of familial and societal stressors.
Increase in disability, long term mental health conditions, negative impact on infant mental health, child abuse, marital/relational discord, increased physical illness are a few ways untreated perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS) can cause further problems.
Julie Rosinski LCSW-R, PMH
Co-Director, WNY Postpartum Connection
Rosinksi said that PMADS do not only affect women. One in 10 fathers experience PMADS, as well as non-gestational parents in same-sex relationships, LGBTQIA+ parents, and adoptive parents. Individuals and families need to know that they are not alone, and help is available.
There are numerous programs and agencies ready to assist new families. Compeer offers the Postpartum Mentoring Program in recognition that the postpartum period can be a particularly difficult time.
“Our postpartum program offers support by matching people who have recently given birth with experienced volunteers who understand postpartum mental health challenges, including but not limited to depression,” said Cheri Alvarez, MS, CEO, Compeer of Greater Buffalo.
According to Alvarez, peer support helps parents navigate the complex emotions and challenges associated with the postpartum period and helps normalize their experiences. Compeer offers a safe and compassionate space for participants to share their experiences, feel validated and less alone during their journey.