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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Q&A: Warning signs, misconceptions about perinatal mood, anxiety disorders

Posted November 18, 2013
Updated November 19, 2013

The Birthing Nest and Felicity Birthing Services are teaming up to sponsor a panel discussion this Saturday about how to identify and work with mothers who exhibit symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

The session, from 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Nov. 23, at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill will feature a panel of local experts.

I checked in with Karissa Binkley of The Birthing Nest to learn more about the event. Binkley is a mom, doula, certified breastfeeding specialist and Lamaze childbirth educator.

Here's our email Q&A: 

Go Ask Mom: Why did you decide to hold the event and who is it designed for?

Karissa Binkley: As a doula and childbirth educator, I'm in the unique position of getting to know women in the perinatal period. I think that it is my responsibility to learn more about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, as it is for anyone who works with women during this time in their lives. Since I was seeking education, as I admit, I know very little, I thought, why not make this a community event? We have excellent resources in the area, experts in the field, and a whole lot of women in the Triangle giving birth who need informed people to support them. This event is open to partners, friends, doulas, midwives, OBs, lactation consultants, prenatal yoga instructors, childbirth educators - really anyone who is in contact with pregnant and postpartum mothers.

GAM: Who will be part of the discussion on Nov. 23?

KB: The goal is to bring professionals from various areas to discuss their experiences in identifying PMAD. A pediatrician sees a mother and baby only a few days after the birth and may notice a different symptom than say an OB who has a six-week check. How does an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant doing a home visit learn more about where mom is emotionally compared to a social worker or a mental health professional who has been working with mom for months? Mothers can have PMAD before birth. How do we identify who needs help? Having a spectrum of ideas and expertise will really make this event unique. [The panel includes]: 

  • Evelyn Bussell, a doula and mother who will share her experience with PMAD
  • Caroline Pence, executive director of Postpartum Education and Support, Inc
  • Cindi Freeman, Lactation Consultant
  • Jennifer Durand-Smith, a pediatrician with Fuquay Pediatrics
  • Christena Raines, a Nurse Practitioner and Assistant Professor of Perinatal Psychiatry Program at UNC
  • Samantha Meltzer-Brody, an Associate Professor and Director at UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders
  • Nancy Ciocci, a social worker and counselor
  • Karen Sheffield, a midwife earning her PhD at UNC

GAM: In your work with pregnant women and new moms, what are some warning signs?

KB: If I have the luxury of knowing women early on, and I have earned her trust, it's helpful to know if she has experienced depression or anxiety in the past. Having a baby can bring up wonderful memories and feelings. Conversely, one can be challenged with negative emotions. Prenatal counseling can be effective. Knowing her base line - when she is feeling good and confident - is helpful because you can better detect changes in behavior. We all have a propensity for mood swings postpartum. Hormones can be rough! But if a mother is feeling overly anxious or disinterested in her babe, or is crying or anxious for more than a week, I encourage her to seek help from her health care providers. There are so many signs and PMAD can be diagnosed even a year after birth. I'm looking forward to this event so that I can be better prepared to answer questions like this.

GAM: How can we all help new moms in those first weeks and months?

KB: Support is critical to all new mothers. Her job is nurse her baby and build confidence in her role as a mother. She doesn't need to play host, clean or cook. She needs friends and family to do that. Reminding a new mother that having a baby is a learning process and that she is doing a good job is so important. The best thing that my friends did for me when I had Cora was to surround me with good food, love and allow me to be myself without the stress of entertaining or putting on airs. With so many of us being transplants, a solid group of friends is a Godsend. If a pregnant woman doesn't have that, encourage her to join new mom groups and La Leche League. It's a soft place to land.

GAM: What are the biggest misconceptions about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders?

KB: That it's uncommon. While some of us may have a higher propensity to have PMAD, no one is immune and every woman in the perinatal period should have someone checking in with her to make sure she's feeling well and supported. Another misconception is that it is a mood disorder that only happens postpartum. It's a perinatal issue, so it can happen during pregnancy, right after birth, or even a year postpartum.

For more about the event at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill and to register, click here.

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