Silence Kills: Breaking The Stigma of Maternal Mental Illness

I had so many risk factors for postpartum depression that it would have been a miracle if I hadn't gotten sick. The problem is that no one ever told me that. I was never screened for a maternal mental illness and I suffered because of it. Now I want to make sure that every medical professional screens every mom every time they can.

#EVERYMOMEVERYTIME

The first time I met my OB, I cried. Everything in my life was up in the air - new living situation, new boyfriend, going back to college, new job and now an unplanned pregnancy.

I cried every time she saw me throughout that pregnancy. Sometimes I cried in her office. Sometimes I cried just before or after my appointment.

When I told her that I couldn't handle this and wouldn't be any good at being a mom she said it was normal to be scared, and that my worries meant I'd be an excellent mother. It helped in the moment but did nothing to quell the panic that returned in the middle of the night.

I told her that I was crying, nervous, and scared all the time, and I asked her if it was just hormones. I asked her if that was normal.  She reassured me that it was.

My blood pressure was rising, I was eating all of my feelings and fears,  and gaining weight quickly. She had me watch my salt intake, push fluids, and focus on eating better.

#ASKHER

If she had asked I would have told her that I cried every day.

That I panicked almost every night.

I talked to my belly and begged my baby to love me and apologized for being a horrible mother each night while I tossed and turned and tried to sleep.

I fantasized about having the baby and sneaking out of the hospital and just running away. His father and our families would take much better care of him than I ever could.

No one screened me using the Edinburgh Screening Tool, the ten questions that could save the lives of mothers and babies every day. No one told me the risk factors for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I raised a red flag by telling the truth on my medical history form about my previous battle with depression and still, no one asked me.

#TELLHER

My mother told me not to get upset because it wasn't good for the baby. He would feel whatever I felt so it was my responsibility to make sure I stayed calm and happy at all times.

My sisters told me I was getting too fat.

My dad told me it was just hormones.

No one told me that 1 in 5 pregnant and postpartum women deal with depression or a maternal mental illness. No one told me that I didn't have to feel miserable and fight to smile each day. No one told me that it might not be 'just hormones'.  I assumed that I was a terrible person because I hated being pregnant. I assumed I had failed at motherhood before it ever really began.

#EVERYMOMEVERYTIME #ASKHER #TELLHER

Looking back now it's obvious that I had depression and anxiety while I was pregnant. Would I have fallen so deep so fast down the rabbit hole of postpartum depression, anxiety, and PTSD if I had been screened and treated appropriately during my pregnancy? I will never know the answer to that question.

What I do know for certain is that there is no reason for us not to screen #EveryMomEveryTime. Screen her at OB appointments, screen her when she's interviewing pediatricians, screen her at birth classes, screen her at hospital tours, screen her when she checks in at the hospital, screen her before she leaves the hospital, screen her at follow-up appointments, screen her at pediatrician appointments. If we want to end the stigma associated with these diseases and save the lives of mothers and babies we have to ask them the questions and tell them the risk factors.

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Please share this information with the pregnant women in your life. Share it with your doctors and pediatricians, ask them if they are screening every mom and if not - why? Send it to expectant fathers, spouses, and partners so that they can prepare themselves to get help. Share it with your elected representatives who are currently considering the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act of 2015.

#EveryMomEveryTime #AskHer #TellHer

These are some of the hashtags you can use to share this information on social media. The more we share, the more noise we can make, the more lives we save.

Graeme Seabrook