Removing The Stigma
Mayor Rynberg’s proclamation shines a much-needed light on the silent pain of new moms
By Rhonda Byrne, LMSW
As a social worker who interacts with and helps pregnant women and new moms across Newaygo County, I want to commend Fremont Mayor Jim Rynberg for proclaiming May as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Awareness Month. Once commonly known as postpartum depression, PMAD affects one in every five new moms. Men are not immune either because one in 10 new dads report experiencing PMAD.
Every day, moms who are going through some form of PMAD walk into the clinics where I work. I even see severe cases a few times each year. These moms feel depression and anxiety. They may be experiencing bipolar disorders, as well as panic, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorders. The feelings affect pregnant moms as well as women up to two years after delivering their child. PMAD is the Number One medical complication related to childbearing.
PMAD can be detected and it can be managed.
Mayor Rynberg’s resolution is timely because it aims to remove any social stigma surrounding this condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only a fraction – around 15 percent – of mothers who display symptoms of PMAD get help from a provider or therapist. Millions of women keep their struggles to themselves because they don’t want to be judged, stereotyped or seen as an unfit mother. Mayor Rynberg’s proclamation of May as PMAD Awareness month, in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, is a strong signal to families that PMAD is not something to be ashamed of.
Instead of hiding from this problem, we must face up to it. Being a social worker, I see it as my job to address PMAD by being a resource for women and as someone who can screen patients. The moment someone walks into our clinics at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial, health care professionals like me and others look for signs that may indicate PMAD. That allows us to connect people with much-needed resources, from medical treatment to therapy to online support.
Recently, several Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s labor and delivery nurses as well as OB/GYN clinic nurses and social workers attended a PMAD training to learn more about screening tools, treatment methods and resources for families. These are other steps that we can do as a community to address this issue.
Healthcare professionals aren’t the only ones who can act as screeners. Family and friends can too. We can watch out for tell-tale signs: irritability, sadness, difficulty sleeping, and feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from the baby. Women who may be experiencing PMAD may cry uncontrollably and lack energy. They may say things like: “I don’t feel like myself” or “I’m just not good enough.” Some may share frightening thoughts about harming themselves and their baby.
These are red flags. They are an opportunity for us to show empathy and take action. Remind the mom and her family that they are not alone. She is blameless and with help, she will get better. If the mom has extreme thoughts and behaviors, take her to the emergency room. Contact her obstetrician. Follow up with medical care. Together, we can raise awareness about the silent suffering so many new mothers go through and help those we care about.
For support and information: Call Pine Rest Mother Baby support line 844.MOM.HOPE (844-666-4673) or go to Postpartum Support’s website atwww.postpartum.net
Rhonda Byrne is a social worker at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial. She helps mothers and families at the OB/GYN Clinic and at Gerber Memorial Pediatrics.
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