The topic I am writing about today is of tantamount importance to me, and for countless women and their families.
Being diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder two months after the birth of my daughter was the most devastating event in my life. If I had received any kind of pregnancy/postpartum mental health screening, I would have had a chance at early diagnosis and proper treatment. I have a strong history of mental illness in my family, and my father had bipolar one disorder. If I had been screened for mood disorders, an enormous amount of suffering could have possibly been averted. My story is just one drop in an ocean full of similar stories. This cycle does not have to continue, and someone is doing something about it…and we can join her to help in a small but meaningful way.
Dr. Walker Karraa is a crusader in the field of women’s pregnancy/postpartum mental health. On March 4th, Dr. Karraa created a groundbreaking White House petition. This petition, which is only active until April 4th, still needs ninety-eight thousand signatures. Even if we don’t reach the goal, every signature has value. Here’s the petition summary:
“Every mother, every time. Universal mental health screening for every pregnant and postpartum woman”
Suicide is a leading cause of death for women during the first year after childbirth. 1 in 7 women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or postpartum, yet nearly 50% remain untreated. In pregnancy, maternal mental illness negatively effects fetal development,and leads to adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight and premature delivery. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can impair infant and early childhood cognitive and emotional development. Despite overwhelming empirical evidence, there is no universal mandate for care providers to screen pregnant and postpartum women for depression, anxiety, or family history of mental illness–a well established risk factor. Screen every mother, every time to prevent and treat perinatal mental illness.
To register and sign to petition (takes less than 5 minutes):
Dr. Karraa has encountered arguments by some who feel that such a screening could be detrimental, and she refutes two main arguments brilliantly at HealthyPlace.com:
To read Dr. Karraa’s interview with Senior Editor Jeanne Faulkner of Christy Turlington’s website/organization Every Mother Counts:
Dr. Karraa’s new website Stigmama was created for women to speak their truths in a non-judgmental, supportive community. Dr. Karraa is currently recruiting contributions by mothers facing mental illness stigma:
Dr. Karraa’s website:
Thank you for reading, as always!