33 years ago, the landscape for moms with postpartum mental illness was pretty barren. Even for me, a certified nurse midwife who lived in New York City—a city where people have access to highly specialized quality care—nobody knew anything. I felt alone and afraid.
When my second child was born in 1985, I got slammed with symptoms I’d never experienced before—including when my first son was born. Severe anxiety, sleeplessness, distractibility. I could not sit still. I could not read. I could not think. And my doctor was clueless. Someone recommended a psychiatrist at Columbia Presbyterian. He said, “You can nurse or you can take medication to feel better—but not both.” That made me panic. Breastfeeding was the one thing that made me feel okay. I didn’t know then, that, despite being a leading psychiatrist, he was utterly wrong about medication and breastfeeding.
My choices went from no information to bad information.
I finally reached out to La Leche League. The doctor they referred me to worked with me as best he could—blindly, but kindly. Although the solutions he offered were imperfect, somehow, I got through.
Ann with her boys, then and now.
My experience is part of why I have such enormous empathy for all the moms who still struggle to access care, or whose doctors turn them away or give poor advice…
Now, as board president of Postpartum Support International, I am honored to work alongside our PSI staff and hundreds of volunteers worldwide to continue to improve the accessibility of care for all mothers, fathers, and their families.
PSI was founded just two years after my first experience with postpartum anxiety and depression.
What has changed since then? EVERYTHING.
Nowadays, mothers like me:
have a number to call for information and support (our HelpLine: 1-800-944-4773).
can receive referrals to professionals trained in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs.) (PSI has trained 10,000+ professionals in how to treat PMADs using the most up-to-date evidence-based information.)
can find someone close to help with local resources and personal support (coordinators in every state and 41 countries, and local chapters in 30 states.)
can still get expert advice, even if they go to a Healthcare provider without training in PMADs. (Any medical prescriber can call our newly-launchedconsultation service and set an appointment to receive prompt, accurate information about treatment options from an expert perinatal psychiatrist.)
are more likely to find a certified practitioner, or a front-line provider with real expertise (PSI’s Perinatal Mental Health certification program—the only one of its kind—and front-line provider training are available internationally).
The growth of PSI in three decades is powerful and impressive.
For the work PSI does, the support it offers, the cutting-edge programs it creates, and the lives it saves every year, please join me in giving a generous gift to make this our most successful annual appeal ever.
Please donate here: Postpartum.net/YearEnd18
Ann Smith, CNM, MSN
PSI Board President