Postpartum Depression: More Common Than You Know
New mothers with postpartum depression can feel very alone. But at least 20% of new mothers experience it. Here's how to cope.
Creating a Postpartum Wellness Plan continued...
Exercise: What you can do physically might depend on your recovery
after giving birth. Even a walk around the block with baby in a stroller or
sling gets you moving in the fresh air. It might not seem like a workout, but
it's a start. Hit the mall for a stroll if weather doesn't cooperate.
Food and water: A plan for nutrition and hydration might sound
obvious, but many new moms are so busy caring for the baby that they don't eat
right. Not getting enough water and protein, especially if you're
breastfeeding, can leave you depleted and vulnerable. Drink at least half your
body weight in ounces of water per day (if you weigh 150 pounds, that's about
nine 8-ounce glasses), and nibble on high-protein snacks such as nuts,
hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt throughout the day.
Realistic expectations: Make a list of motherhood myths you won't buy
into, such as "I'm not a good mom if I can't breastfeed," "I should be madly in
love with my baby from the second I see him," and "I should lose all the
pregnancy weight and look like Heidi Klum before my baby is six months
Help for Depressed Moms: The MOTHERS Act
When Melanie Blocker Stokes gave birth to
her daughter, Sommer Skyy, in 2001, she seemed to have it all: a successful
career, a devoted husband, and a beautiful, healthy baby. But by the time
Sommer was a month old, Stokes was crippled by depression so severe that she
stopped eating and drinking. Plagued by paranoid thoughts, she was put on a
series of antipsychotic drugs, but eventually jumped to her death from the 12th
floor of a Chicago hotel.
Stokes had postpartum psychosis. In her name, the Melanie Blocker Stokes
MOTHERS (Mom's Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support
for Postpartum Depression) Act was introduced in Congress in January 2009. The
legislation is aimed at improving research, screening, and treatment for
perinatal mood disorders.
Sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), the
bill funds grants that help health care providers recognize, identify, and
treat perinatal mood disorders. It also encourages the Department of Health and
Human Services to conduct a national public awareness campaign around perinatal
mood disorders and orders the department to study the benefits of screening for
postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
The MOTHERS Act, supported by a broad coalition of groups ranging from the
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of
Nurse-Midwives to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Suicide
Prevention Action Network USA, passed the House of Representatives by a nearly
unanimous vote in March. The legislation is awaiting action in the Senate,
where it has broad support but has been stalled by the objections of one
senator. You can urge your senator to support the MOTHERS Act, S. 324, by