Free forum addresses postpartum illness
CHESTER — Mental health issues with pregnant women, before and after child birth, was the focus of a movie and a discussion at a forum hosted by the Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church, Chester, on Thursday Jan. 19.
The free program was held in partnership with the Maryland Mental Health Association’s Healthy New Moms public education campaign and the evening began with a showing of the documentary “Dark Side of the Full Moon” followed by a discussion with moms and mental health officials.
About 12 people attended the forum.
Topics of discussion included effective screenings for new mothers, the disconnect within the medical community and the treatment of the 1.3 million mothers affected each year by postpartum depression.
Both the movie and the discussion revealed there are more mental health issues with moms than just postpartum depression. There’s also postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis. And the mental issue can happen before and after child birth. Sometimes, the disorder is called baby blues.
Tiffany Thomas of Baltimore, also with the Mental Health Association of Mar yland, attended the discussion and offered her experience. She still has postpartum anxiety and she had her boy almost two years ago.
“I still struggle with anxiety. I always have. It’s not as severe after I had my child. I still struggle with it,” Thomas said, adding that she sees a psychiatrist and therapist and takes medication.
There are places for moms to get help, Thomas said, but many times moms can feel over whelmed with the moods they face. Any mom who needs help should start with their obstetrician or the child’s pediatrician, she said.
Several women took part in the discussion after the movie and made these points:
• There are constant baby showers people hold for moms, making moms think who the shower is for.
• Six weeks off from work to take care of the baby isn’t long enough, considering the breast feeding moms must do for their children.
• Moms sometimes need surgery to have their children, and the physical problems last longer because the women get no sleep while taking care of the baby.
• One mom said her husband got eight weeks paid leave to take care of the baby when she was a new employee and had difficulty putting together enough pregnancy leave.
• Men also can have postpartum depression and more research into it is underway.
• One key is prevention, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or offer it.
• The biggest misconception is someone might think looking at the internet that there’s there’s plenty resources out there, but there might not be so many on the Eastern Shore.
• Another discussion member, Jackie Davis, executive director of the Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore, said there’s a Facebook site, called Healthy New Moms-Eastern Shore. “The goal is to get people talking,” she said.
Leslie Rucker of the Family Center of Queen Anne’s County said, “There’s resources out there and I can find them and link [women] to them.”
The movie, “Dark Side of the Full Moon,” focused on the maternal mental health in the U.S. and showed the disconnect within the medical community to effectively screen, refer and treat the 1.3 million mothers affected each year.
The film highlighted inconsistencies of care, questioned the system and doctors and also highlighted peer-to-peer support groups, relevant policy, research and treatment.
Some moms in the movie discussed the desire to kill themselves or their baby, and the movie showed how news broadcasts of moms killing their babies affect those moms watching the news. One mom said she never had a desire to kill herself or her baby, but rather simply had depression. Dads were in the movie, too, one was sympathetic to his wife while another divorced his wife.
The Healthy New Moms campaign in Maryland has a brochure that details places for moms to get help. The website is healthynewmoms.org.
For a mom in the need of immediate help, they can contact the Eastern Shore Crisis Response and Resource Helpline at 1-888-407-8018. Staff associated with the crisis team can come to the mom’s house if needed. It’s available 9 a.m. to midnight for moms in Queen Anne’s County.
If someone has suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting others, they are urged to call 911.
These women took part in a discussion about postpartum mental health illnesses at a forum at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church, Chester, on Thursday, Jan. 19. They are, from left, Leslie Rucker of Ridgely, Carol Strootman of Chestertown, Beth Fallert of Greensboro, Katharine Petzold of Easton, Penny Greeley of Easton, Jackie Davis, executive director of the Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore, Megan Pinder of Centreville, and Tiffany Thomas of Baltimore.