By now you’ve likely heard the story of Jessica Porten, a new mom from Sacramento, California who became both humiliated and horrified when she was notified that the police had been called after telling a nurse practitioner from her OB’s about the “postpartum depression that is manifesting in fits of anger…” Porten continued by saying, “I have a very strong support system at home, so although I would never hurt myself or my baby, I’m having violent thoughts and I need medication and therapy to get through this.” A reasonable request from a woman who was simply trying to obtain proper support and resources, so that she could be well enough to care for her new baby.
What began to unfold, is an event that will likely stay with this young mom for years to come. Porten recalls the day long catastrophe, “No medication, no follow up appointment, never spoke to a doctor. This was a 10 hour ordeal that I had to go through all while caring for my infant that I had with me. And that’s it. That’s what I got for telling my OB that I have PPD and I need help. I was treated like a criminal and then discharged with nothing but a stack of xeroxed printouts with phone numbers on them.” At no point during her OB visit or her stay at the hospital was she given the option of seeing a physician. Instead of receiving hope, she left feeling broken and disheartened. A system that was designed to “help”, would ultimately fail her on a multitude of levels.
Sadly, this type of outcome is far from uncommon. Postpartum depression is the most cited complication during birth, affecting 1/7 women. Yet there continues to be a deficit in basic maternal mental health knowledge. Particularly alarming is the reality that the medical professionals who are most likely to come into contact with these expectant and postpartum mothers, are often undertrained or not trained at all in relation to PMAD’s (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders).
Porten says, “No woman should have to suffer in silence for fear of having her children taken away. There needs to be systems in place to treat this extremely common condition (PMD) without traumatizing families or ripping them apart.” Surely you would think in a day and age where many consider it an era of abundant access to data, more families and practitioners would understand not only what PMAD’s look like but the protocol for intervening.
As a PSI coordinator, I am honored to be a part of a growing community of individuals who have made it their life’s mission to not only find resources for those afflicted with PMAD’s but to educate the world on the facts, fallacies and unjustified stigmas associated with them. In response to the recent events surrounding Jessica Porten and all those before and after her that have faced the heartbreak and disappointment of the realization that they fell victim to broken system, I hear you. I see you. You are not alone. Help is on its way.
Please join me over the coming weeks for a series of blog articles, which will dig more deeply into the systemic issues related to both screening, diagnosis and treatment of perinatal mood disorders. I anticipate wrapping up the collection of blog entries by detailing the steps that must be taken to elicit lasting change.
If you are a practitioner or a professional in contact with women during the first few weeks and months of life after baby, I hope you will consider joining us this March for a one-of-a-kind training created specifically with you in mind! It is our greatest hope to empower you with the most up-to-date data and resources so that you can continue serving the mothers, fathers and families of your communities! For more information please call 800-944-4PPD (4773) or visit us at www.postpartum.net/learn-more/tools-for-mom.