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. . . She hasn’t told anyone, but she’s stopped holding her baby whenever she is alone, just to be safe.
She’s also feeling incredibly sad and irritable. She finds herself yelling at her partner frequently, which has never happened before and in her mind she’s yelling at herself “You’re a bad mom” “You should never have become a mother” “You’re not cut out for this”. Michelle is devastated, she thought she would be enjoying this time. She’s not sure what to do.
What Michelle doesn’t know is that she is experiencing a postpartum mental health disorder, just like 1 in 5 women do around the world.
It is the MOST COMMON complication of pregnancy- not diabetes or high blood pressure. And, it is treatable, but most women never even know they are experiencing it. So they slog on- but not without cost- to themselves, their jobs, their families, the healthy development of their children, and sometimes their life.
As a therapist that works with women suffering from postpartum mood disorders- I hear stories like this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And after the relief at being told that there is hope and help and treatment- and that they aren’t at fault for the way they are feeling- people say “Why didn’t anybody tell me?” People need INFORMATION about postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum panic, and postpartum bipolar before they even know how to ask for help.
Early 2019 I was scrolling through the internet, thinking about how I could get this information out there. And I came across a statistic that said that 90% of text messages are opening within 30 seconds. And I knew that was it. So I create a series of text messages – 18 in all- that deliver basic, easy to understand information about postpartum mental health for women.
Topics include: symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, what are intrusive thoughts, what to do if you experiencing postpartum psychosis (a life threatening mental health complication), an online directory that helps women find a therapist trained specifically in maternal mental health, a hotline to call if you or your MD have questions about medications and breastfeeding.
I named the texts “MotherWise Postpartum Mental Health Texts” and I set the texts to be delivered 2x per week for 3 months. To sign up women simply text the word “MotherWise” to 555888. (For Spanish Speakers text MADRESABIA to 555888)
I figured I’d put up some signs at local OBGYN’s and a few local area women would sign up every week. In March I posted a single image to Facebook, inviting people to sign up and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning, over 400 women had signed up. And now I had a wonderful new problem, keeping up with demand.
TO date, I haven’t advertised the texts anymore, and I’ve sent out over 10000 texts.
I have seen first hand how terribly postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder and psychosis can impact a woman and her family. These texts create a bridge for a woman to talk across to get the care and support she needs to be able to function, to feel better, to care for herself and her baby.
Michelle’s best friend recommended she sign up for the MotherWise texts, and in the third text Michelle ready some of the symptoms of postpartum depression. She recognized many of them in her own life. She found a local therapist that specializes in maternal mental health, and she is feeling incredibly relieved and supported to have someone who knows what she is experiencing and has a plan to help her feel better.
A year after beginning therapy Michelle is talking to another mom at library story time. “Admitting I needed help was the hardest and the best thing I’ve ever done. I felt like asking for help meant I was a bad mom. But looking back, I see that I just needed some specialized support. If you are feeling overwhelmed or sad or just plain awful, don’t wait to get help. You and your baby deserve for you to feel good and enjoy these times with your little one!”
(Michelle’s story is fictional.)