Mama Is Not Alright

1.3 million women every single year.

The number 1 complication of childbirth.

One of the leading causes of death for women in the first year postpartum.

The silence coming from the medical profession on Maternal Mental Illnesses deafens me.

I realize that doctors get almost no training on this issue. The Ob/Gyns see it as a mental health problem. The psychologists and psychiatrists see it as a complication of childbirth. The pediatricians see it as a problem for the mother. No one wants to own this.

The newspapers and TV shows paint us as killers or crazy women throwing babies out of windows or driving cars into the ocean.

No one wants to own this.

Mothers smile through doctor appointments and say nothing about the sleeplessness, anxiety, fear, shame, and certainty that they are the only ones suffering.

No one wants to own this.

This disease is ancient. Hippocrates called it milk fever. Freud said we were neurotic. In the 50's they gave us electroshock therapy... or Valium. This is not new. Modern mothers are not weak, we are not failing, we are not crazy and we are not lying.

We are dying. Our children are dying. And no one wants to own this.

In fact, more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and epilepsy. 

The stigma and silence surrounding these diseases are  killing women and children and ripping families apart.

Here is what we know. We know that with treatment and support women can heal dramatically and families can be strengthened. We know that children of women with MMIs can suffer social, cognitive, and learning delays if their mothers are not given this support. We are finding out now that the lack of bonding can negatively impact brain development. Not supporting mothers actually hurts children.

We know that there is NO STANDARD OF CARE for screening of mothers, for referrals, or for treatment from either the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG)  or the American Academy of Pediatrics. We know that new mothers are seen before leaving the hospital and in about six weeks postpartum. We know that infants are seen multiple times in the first months of life. We know that MMI onset can occur any time in the first year postpartum. We know that mothers and children are seen multiple times when they are most vulnerable and we know women are falling through the cracks. We know that women are dying. We know that children are dying.

No one wants to own this.

We know that these diseases manifest differently in each mother. We know that women need individualized care. We know that families need to be educated on what to look for and doctors need to be educated on where to refer women in their communities.  We need health insurance to cover all women, we need support groups, we need a standard of care and a community ready to support families. We need to banish the stigma. WE NEED TO OWN THIS.

So how can you help?
You can contact your Ob/Gyn and your Pediatrician and ask them to use these screening tools every time they see a mother who is pregnant or in the first year postpartum.
You can use this link to find care providers in your area.
You can share your story of survival.
You can take this survey if you have suffered, women of color can take this survey as well.
You can send an email to the ACOG asking them to create a standard of care for mothers.
You can send an email to the AAP asking them to commit their members to screen mothers at each infant visit.
You can watch and share this documentary.
You can talk to any expectant mother you know about the symptoms of MMI and encourage them to have a treatment plan in place.
You can ask a new mother how she is. You can keep asking.
You can support The Family Act.
You can follow and share and reach out using these hashtags: #warriormoms #standwithmoms #ppd #momsmatter #iamtheface.
You can take ownership. You can stand with me as we say that We Own This and we will fight for and end to the stigma and the silence that is killing mothers and children across the country.

In the coming days and weeks I will be focusing on each of these action steps in more depth. I want you all to know that there are multiple things that each of us can do to help ourselves and each other. There are things we can do in minutes, alone in our rooms (write an email) and things that we can do together (CLIMB OUT!)

If you need someone to talk to I'm right here. You can also reach out to the Postpartum Stress International's Warm Line at 1-800-273-8255. We are here for you and WE'VE GOT THIS.

Graeme Seabrook