Thursday, October 25, 2007
Take action on postpartum depression
I just found out on Maternally Challenged that today is "Blog for the MOTHERS Act Day" (Senate bill 1375 -- the cutesy acronym stands for Mom’s Opportunity to Access Help, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression). I had no idea this bill existed until about 20 minutes ago, but I sure as hell hope it passes, because it will provide education, screening and treatment for a condition that's more common than one might think. Many people wind up getting political about issues that have affected them personally, and I'm no exception. I first mentioned my tale of woe here, and all I can say is thank God for on-call mental health professionals who prescribe powerful anti-anxiety medications to strangers sobbing on the phone at 6 a.m., because I honestly don't know what I would have done otherwise. Hindsight is always 20-20 but I sure wish that (1) I hadn't stopped taking Prozac when I got pregnant, (2) I knew at the time that it wasn't just my normally anxious and screwed-up nature that was making me feel like I was perched on the ledge of a burning building like those people in New York about seven months later, and (3) there was more education for new and expectant parents about postpartum depression and what to watch out for.
Part of the problem, I think, is that prenatal education focuses so much on labor and delivery and not the tough stuff that comes afterwards, like figuring out how to breast-feed and oh yeah, the possibility of debilitating depression that's not your fault and makes both parents feel terrified, helpless and worthless on top of the normal anxiety and sleep deprivation that they mention in passing. I think the medical people are worried about scaring and overwhelming new parents by bringing up something bad that may never happen, thereby adding yet more anxiety to the point that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I think every parent would appreciate and greatly benefit from a little more honesty up front. I know I would have. Fortunately, as with almost any medical condition nowadays, there are web sites and blogs (such as Postpartum Progress) to create a virtual community around the issue, but sometimes support isn't enough all by itself.