Wednesday, May 09, 2012

May is National Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month.

Welcome to Childbirth Today's 2012 Blog Carnival - honoring the busy month of May and all of the celebrations of midwives, nurses, doulas and childbirth educators...AND mothers!  Today's blog carnival entry features a post by Kathy Morelli LPC and owner of

          Did you know that depression in women is more common than breast cancer or stroke?  (saaay what?)

          In May, 2011, the President of Postpartum Support International (PSI), Dr. Lucy Puryear, announced May has been designated as National Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Many states and counties have also designated May as a time to raise awareness about perinatal mood disorders. Postpartum Support International (PSI) uses the slogan,  

“Speak Up When You’re Down”

as part of their awareness campaign. This slogan was originally developed by the state of New Jersey to help families realize it is ok to speak up, ask the questions they need to ask and get the help they need at this transformative time of life.

          It is a well-known statistic that one in four women suffers depression at some point in her life.  The time around the childbearing year is when a woman is more likely to suffer depression than at any other time in her life  (Nonacs, 2006).  Ruta Nonacs, MD (2011), editor-in-chief of Massachusetts General Hospital's Center of Women’s Mental Health's website estimates annually in the US about 950,000 to 1,000,000 mothers suffer from depression either during or after childbirth every year, out of a total of about 4 million birthing mothers.  

          Did you know the World Health Organization lists depression as one of the top two to four causes of disability (defined as the loss of productive life) worldwide today?  As a society we are very quiet about an extremely prevalent illness, no? Mental illness is more prevalent than many other more publicized illnesses, but mum's the word, huh? 
          You think there is no public stigma? No self-shame? Have you noticed there is no nationwide Walk for Depression? Do you know the color of the depression ribbon?

          It is very good news there are effective treatments for depression and postpartum depression.  Sadly, the World Health Organization (WHO, 2012) estimates less than 25 % of persons affected by depression receive any treatment at all.  WHO (2012) says social stigma associated with mental illness (simply put, shame), lack of personal resources and the lack of trained clinicians are the top barriers to receiving proper treatment.

          So, think about that, only about 25% of those moms actually seek and receive help for perinatal depression. So many women cope all alone, managing their very real emotional pain while in the at the same time coping with an infant.  

          Postpartum Support International says that postnatal depression is the most common complication in childbirth today. Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women says there are more occurrences of perinatal depression than pre-term labor or pre-eclampsia. Pretty surprising statistics, no?

          Visit the Postpartum Support International website to find the warmline support phone line number or to get information about perinatal mood disorders. 

          Wendy Davis, Executive Director of PSI, announced the beginning of NMDAM to the PSI volunteer network last week with some videos posted on the PSI You Tube channel.

Please enjoy the video by Wade Bowen called Turn on the Lights from his album If We Ever Make It Home


This song was written after his wife suffered from postpartum depression and it is about his family's experiences with the illness. He generously has turned this into a benefit for Postpartum Support International.

You are not alone.
Pick up the phone.
Call the PSI Warmline at 503-894-9763
Happy, Healthy May and Happy Mother’s Day to all ! 


Massachusetts General Hospital (2012). Psychiatric disorders during pregnancy. Retrieved March 27, 2012

Nonacs, R. (2006). A deeper shade of blue. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Postpartum Support International (PSI, 2009). Components of care. Seattle: PSI

Puryear, L. J. (2007). Understanding your moods when you're expecting. New York: Houghton         Mifflin Company.

World Health Organization (WHO, 2012). Depression. Retrieved March 31, 2012

About the author:
Kathy Morelli. LPC, practices professional marriage and family counseling in New Wayne, Jersey. She specializes in Marriage, Motherhood and Mental Health®.  She volunteers on PSI's warmline. Kathy is the author of BirthTouch® Shiatsu & Acupressure for the Childbearing Year and BirthTouch® Healing for Parents in the NICU.  She'd love a visit at


Jeanette McCulloch said...

Kathy ~ Thanks for sharing this post. This is such a critical issue that deserves attention by everyone who comes into contact with mothers in the postpartum window. ~ Jeanette

Jeanette McCulloch said...

Kathy ~ Thanks for sharing this post. Perinatal mood disorders are so often overlooked, and pieces like yours help educate care providers. Keep up the important work of educating *all* of the providers that interact with women in the postpartum period.

KathyMorelli said...

Hi Jeannette - thanks for checking in! Did you know postpartum depression is considered the foremost complication in childbirth today, from PSI...
take care Kathy