Recently, I shared here on Babble the myriad of problems that mothers face when it comes to being screened for postpartum depression. It’s not just screening that is inconsistent; it’s pretty much everything related to PPD.
If you go into a doctor’s or other healthcare provider’s office to talk about maternal mental health, you may or may not receive an official screening test, and if you do, it may be offered offhandedly and without compassion or information. You may be offered only one treatment option and you may be given very little information about it. You might feel as though you are not being heard or treated with respect. It may feel as though no one is able to spend much time with you or is interested in following up with you to make sure your treatment is effective and that you are recovering. You may even be given information that is completely incorrect about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
If so, you’re not alone. How do I know? I write the most widely read blog in the world on PPD and maternal mental illness, and I run a nonprofit that advocates for pregnant women and new moms with maternal mental illness. I talk to women from around the country and across the globe every day, and I know what’s happening to them. My belief is that, despite the fact that much progress has been made in the last couple of decades, we still have a long way to go, and it’s going to take the power of women uniting together and demanding more to get there.
My nonprofit, Postpartum Progress, has just created the first Bill of Rights for Moms with postpartum depression and related illnesses, like postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, and antenatal depression. We did this because we want to let the world know that moms expect and deserve better than they are getting. PPD is a serious illness. If you have multiple sclerosis or breast cancer or Parkinson’s disease, you expect to be treated with compassion and respect by healthcare providers who are well informed and prepared to either assist you with effective treatment or send you to someone else who knows what they are doing. Mothers with maternal mental illness deserve the same.
Getting early and effective help that leads to full recovery is crucial to the long-term health of a family. Children whose moms have untreated or ineffectively treated PPD can go on to struggle with cognitive and developmental delays, behavioral problems, difficulties in school, conduct disorders, and their own bouts with depression or anxiety. We have to get this right. To everyone who has been working hard to help mothers quickly recognize their illnesses and seek professional treatment, and to help them fully recover with timely and effective treatment and support, we thank you. To everyone else, we say it’s time to get on board.
I hope you’ll visit Postpartum Progress and learn about our Postpartum Depression Bill of Rights. This is our stake in the ground. These are the things mothers deserve and the treatment they should expect, and I fully believe we can make this happen.