I’m delighted to share that I’ve been invited to be part of a maternal mental health learning collaborative with the intention of making screening and access to care simpler and more widespread in Colorado. I joined a meeting for the first time on December 1st, and it was eye-opening all around.
I had no idea how many resources there were that had individuals or departments that wanted to support pregnant and postpartum women. Literally at least a dozen different organizations, including hospitals, birth centers, and mental health organizations.
Sadly, these resources are disparate and little known to primary providers like OBs and pediatricians – those on the front lines of maternal health care.
For myself, I was never screened for postpartum depression, despite my mental health history (I tapered myself off Cymbalta before getting pregnant), my high risk pregnancy, and my son’s premature birth and NICU stay. All of these were risk factors for developing a postpartum mental health condition. But I never received a screening, not when I was pregnant, when I was in the hospital, when I was in the NICU with my son, or when I sobbed hysterically through several pediatrician’s appointments. I never saw the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) until I was participating in the Healthy Expectations program at Children’s Hospital.
The EPDS is a single sheet assessment that asks how a woman has felt for the last seven days. It is a simple, effective way to determine if she needs further screening and mental health care. One piece of paper and a few minutes could have saved me month of mental anguish and two hospitalizations. Maybe even the chance to continue to nurse my son, as my ability to breastfeed was stolen from me due to a conflicting medication prescribed for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder. My son is now eighteen months old, and I still literally dream about nursing.
At this point in my recovery, I feel a great deal of anger and resentment. I question why these simple steps weren’t taken, and it drives me to find ways to prevent it from happening to other women. No one should have to go through what I did. No family, no baby, and no new mother.
So this is my new endeavor. To get screenings into the hands of every pregnant woman and new mother, so that she can decide for herself if her “baby blues” are more than that. If her history and risk factors need to be identified and observed by her caregivers. So she can be educated and informed, empowered and prepared.