Undertrained and Far Too Common: An Alarming Reality

by April Gabriel-Ferretti, MS, MFT

For the Postpartum Support International Blog
February 20, 2018

By now you’ve likely heard the story of Jessica Porten, a new mom from Sacramento, California who was devastated to learn that, after sharing her concerns with a nurse practitioner at her OB’s office, the police had been called. Jessica had, rightfully, shared her concerns about “postpartum depression that is manifesting in fits of anger….” Porten also explained, “I have a very strong support system at home, so although I would never hurt myself or my baby, I’m having violent thoughts and I need medication and therapy to get through this.” A reasonable request from a woman who was simply trying to obtain proper support and resources, so that she could be well enough to care for her new baby.

What began to unfold is an event that will likely stay with this young mom for years to come. Porten recalls the day-long catastrophe, “No medication, no follow up appointment, never spoke to a doctor. This was a 10-hour ordeal that I had to go through all while caring for my infant…. And that’s it. That’s what I got for telling my OB that I have PPD and I need help. I was treated like a criminal and then discharged with nothing but a stack of xeroxed printouts with phone numbers on them.” At no point during her OB visit or her stay at the hospital was she given the option of seeing a physician. Instead of receiving hope, she left feeling broken and disheartened. A system that was designed to help, would ultimately fail her on a multitude of levels.

Sadly, this type of outcome is far from uncommon. Postpartum depression is the most cited complication of childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 women. Yet there continues to be a deficit in basic maternal mental health knowledge. Particularly alarming is the reality that the medical professionals who are most likely to come into contact with these expectant and postpartum mothers are often undertrained or not trained at all in relation to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. It is important that we not shame or blame providers. Rather, we need to ensure that they have the training they need.

Porten says, “No woman should have to suffer in silence for fear of having her children taken away. There needs to be systems in place to treat this extremely common condition (PMD) without traumatizing families or ripping them apart.” It is unfortunate that still, today, with so much known about maternal mental health that it is not disseminated thoroughly to medical practitioners who see women on the frontlines of care.

As a PSI support coordinator, I am honored to be a part of a growing community of individuals who have made it their life’s mission to not only find resources for those afflicted with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but to educate families, medical practitioners, and law enforcement officials about the facts, fallacies, and stigmas associated with them. In response to the recent events surrounding Jessica Porten and all those before and after her who have been ill-served by the medical system, I hear you. I see you. You are not alone. Help is on its way.

Please join me over the coming months for a series of blog articles which will dig more deeply into the issues related to screening, diagnosis, and treatment of perinatal mood disorders.

If you are a practitioner or a professional in contact with women during the first few weeks and months of life after baby, I hope you will consider joining us this Spring for the launch of our Frontline Provider Training created specifically with you in mind! It is our greatest hope to empower you with the most up-to-date data and resources so that you can continue serving the mothers, fathers and families of your communities!

For more information please call 800-944-4PPD (4773) or visit us at postpartum.net/learn-more/tools-for-mom.


April Gabrietl-Ferretti picApril Gabriel-Ferretti lives in Pennsylvania with her three boys and husband. April is graduate of Capella University, where she received her MS in marriage and family counseling and therapy. She is the Lehigh Valley coordinator for PSI and works in private practice where she provides psychotherapy and consulting. She specializes in serving women and families who have been affected by perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and hopes that by providing a safe space for them to speak freely and without judgment, she can be a conduit for their healing and recovery. When she isn’t at the office, April can be found in the kitchen where she loves cooking and entertaining family and friends. During the summer months, she can be seen on the beach, with her toes in the sand watching her children play in the surf. For more information about April and the services she provides visit www.aprilgabrielferretti.com