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More than the Baby Blues

Postpartum Depression: The Plight of Many Mothers

 

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please.

BACKGROUND: 

Just like any other mental illness postpartum depression is hard to define, however, I have found this video from the National Institute of Mental Health that gives a good overview of the illness and one mother’s personal struggle that in my opinion can speak for a lot of other mothers struggling with PPD.

When I was first presented with the catalyst conference assignment in the beginning of the course I was really overwhelmed. I knew there were so many issues in the world of mental health that could use my help and I didn’t know how to choose. I consulted my GOA teacher and she brought up the idea of Postpartum Depression which instantly caught my attention. I remember reading an article about Chrissy Teigen’s new struggle with PPD. I thought that if the only advocates for struggling mothers were the occasional celebrity who experienced PPD than something is wrong and the general public needs to know more.

 

CHALLENGE: 

“I really didn’t want to live anymore. [I would think,] ‘I just want to leap out of my life,’ but then the rational side of me [would say], ‘You’re only on the fourth floor. You’ll get broken to bits and then you will be even worse.’ … [My husband] would say, ‘Oh, my God, she’s crying,’ and I would respond, ‘Yeah, baby. She’s crying. I wonder what she wants?’ It was like this weird alien overtook my body and every appropriate response was answered with the antithesis of what you would assume … Postpartum depression takes certain truths and turns them into the worst version of the truth. The truth is, your life is changed forever when you have a child, but what you don’t factor in is that it might be better and it might be more enriched.” — My project is going to focus on postpartum depression and what causes it and its effect on a new mother. Postpartum depression is a taboo topic among women and mothers because they are expected to feel nothing but happiness after their baby is born, however, that is not always the case. In this project, I hope to give greater awareness to this topic and give struggling moms a voice.” -Brooke Shields, 2005

“It’s something that’s completely uncontrollable,” she said. “It’s really painful and it’s really scary and women need a lot of support.” -Hayden Panettiere 2014

I got to interview Dr. Megan Smith. She is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University; as well as the founder and president of New Haven’s Mental Health Outreach for Moms. My interview lasted about 30 minutes so here is my main takeaway from the chat. It includes quotes and statistics given to me by Dr. Megan Smith.

The questions I asked about Postpartum depression weren’t necessarily about the nuts and bolts of PPD but its causes and effects. Dr. Smith’s focus begun with child psychology and the effects of traumatic experiences in childhood on adult life. To quote Dr. Smith “If you think about the earliest form of adversity for children really begins in utero”. Mothers can start experiencing postpartum depression anytime within one year of birth and without the proper treatment, it can last anywhere from a year to three years. During this time Dr. Smith says the baby is phased with stress hormones which impacts its development. This lead to the prevention aspect of her MOMS partnership program. The most crucial part of this info is that PPD doesn’t only affect mothers but children in both cognitive and social/emotional ways.

Another question we discussed is how a mother can tell the difference between postpartum depression or regular sadness and fatigue. This is definitely a challenge faced by many other mental illnesses. For example, people with anxiety disorder have a tough time realizing that they are not just nervous but anxious and there is an option to feel better. Dr. Smith used the term gateway symptoms when describing the signs of depression which are feeling down (depressed), hopeless or loss of interest and if these feelings last a new mother for more than a month it could be a diagnosable depression disorder.

A new problem I discovered while interviewing Dr. Smith that I found really interesting is postpartum depression doesn’t affect all moms equally. A basic statistic is that 1 in 7 (about 15%) new moms suffer from PPD  however, that number increases to about 1 in 4 (about 25%) for mothers with low-incomes. Dr. Smith’s MOMS partnership aims to help low-income moms in need. I didn’t realize how much postpartum depression was hurting low-income moms and it caused me to think differently about the world of mental health. This lead me to think of how I can incorporate this new information into my Catalyst conference. This also made me think if postpartum depression is affecting so many moms, especially moms that could use our help, then why isn’t it talk about more in public? Postpartum depression is also more likely to be seen in teen moms, so why don’t teachers or health professionals talk about that downside of teen pregnancy?

Speaking at the West Rock Authors’ Academy in New Haven on October 21 were, from left, David Wilkinson, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation; Richard Jacob, Associate Vice President for Federal and State Relations at Yale; Megan V. Smith, DrPH, Director of the New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers (MOMS) Partnership; Roderick L. Bremby, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Social Services; and John H. Krystal, MD, Professor of Neuroscience and Chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry.

 

SOLUTION:

I am planning to sell a downloadable graphic design that contains basic information and statistics on PPD with resources for help, then the customer will be able to purchase the infographic and put it on any medium they like –such as a poster, a magnet, a tote bag etc. Besides having to cover the cost of the material it is printed on, all extra funding will go to Postpartum Support International, which is an organization that is centered around postpartum depression and all its aspects. However, the graphic will be free of charge to hospitals and OBGYN offices.  There are two versions of the design: the first is the more elaborate design that contains a whole assortment of facts, the second is meant to fit on smaller objects like pens that can’t house the large graphic but still starts the conversation. Both graphics include the number for the PSI warm line where volunteers will give you information, encouragement, and names of resources near you. (it is also available in both English and Spanish) This tangible design will raise awareness for the many mothers suffering without help and it will also start a conversation about postpartum depression. This graphic will spur a conversation because it contains pretty shocking facts and it is visually appealing. Just like the smaller graphic says, mothers struggling with PPD are not alone and it is important that they know so they don’t feel so scared and in turn be better mothers.

 

SOURCES CITED:

https://medicine.yale.edu/psychiatry/research/programs/clinical_people/megan_smith.profile

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COMMENTS: 2
  1. April 29, 2017 by Justin P

    I was so shocked. I’ve become so aware through this project, Thank you! I guess my question is, what are other efforts that are being done in order to spread awareness? Good job with your project though, I’ve learned so much and I understand depression amongst new mothers a lot more than before!

  2. May 08, 2017 by Scott

    Excellent project, Caroline T. I had no idea PPD was so prevalent. I also like your Get Help poster with the symptoms.

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