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Maternal Mental Health and the Blue Dot Campaign

by Johanna Utter, L.Ac., FABORM

Blue Dot Campaign Johanna Utter, L.Ac. 

Last summer I was invited to join the Yolo County Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative (now known as the Yolo County Maternal Mental Health Collaborative.) The Collaborative is made up of representatives from various county agencies and private individuals who either work with pregnant and postpartum women and their families, or who have personal experience of postpartum depression. Its current vision statement is to “Promote optimal wellness for all mothers in Yolo County so they and their families can flourish.”

The Collaborative has been meeting monthly for the past three years to raise awareness around Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS), commonly known as postpartum depression or PPD. For the past 3 years, Yolo County, along with Humboldt and Santa Clara Counties, has been at the forefront of a social media campaign during the month of May to create public awareness around PMADS. The symbol is the Blue Dot and they are hoping to make it as recognizable as the pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness. They want women and their families to know that PMADS is not their fault and that treatment is available.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the first week, May 1-7, is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.

Below are the most common types of mood changes a woman may experience.

“Baby Blues” is very common and affects approximately 80% of postpartum women. It usually arises and resolves relatively quickly – from approximately 24-48 hours following  the birth to up to 2 weeks – and is frequently due to a combination of rapid hormonal shifts and exhaustion.

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression (PMADS) affects 1 in 7 women (15-20%) and is even higher (up to 50%) in those experiencing poverty. PMADS is not predictable. It can affect women after their first baby or may not show up until their third or fourth is born. It may begin during pregnancy or last up to 2 years after the baby’s birth. Although it usually affects the mom, dads can also experience it. PMADS commonly shows up as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress syndrome, and bipolar mood disorder. It affects the mothers and their children, as well as other parent partners and the wider community.

PMADS is more prevalent than gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia combined. Screening is not routinely done, and even when detected, less than 25% of women are treated. Conventional treatment generally consists of medication and talk therapy, but acupuncture is also very effective and has no side effects. In fact, in a recent study, acupuncture was as effective as Prozac, but without the side effects.

Postpartum Psychosis is thankfully relatively rare, affecting 1 in 1000 mothers (or 0.1%). It usually occurs within the first 2 weeks postpartum. These are the stories that you are likely to hear about in the news – women who attempt suicide or try to kill their children. These women experience a break from reality and usually require multiple forms of treatment.

If you know someone who has recently had a baby, reach out to her and ask her how she is doing. Attention is usually focused on the new baby and new moms who are sore and exhausted may not ask for help, especially if they are used to doing everything themselves. They may not even know that their feelings of overwhelm are normal and that support is available.

Yolo County has an amazing wealth of resources:

Suicide Prevention
(530) 756-5000 (Davis)
(530) 666-7778 (Woodland)
(916) 372-6565 (West Sacramento)

Yolo County Department of Health and Human Services CRISIS Line
(530) 965-6647 / TCC (800) 735-2929

Empower Yolo (domestic / sexual violence support)
(530) 662- 1133 (Woodland)
(916) 371-1907 (West Sacramento)

Postpartum Support International
(800) 944-4773

You can also contact your doctor or insurance company for help.


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