Wednesday, March 21, 2012

PPD and Support for Moms: More Evidence

The journey to motherhood is a difficult one for many of us. The transition to being a mom often means putting aside our personal career goals, having less time for social activities, and, in some cases, a serious identity crisis. For 10 to 15 percent of women, motherhood may begin with postpartum depression (PPD). According to a recent study of Norwegian women by Silje Marie Haga, mothers who are more holistic-minded, such as those seeking natural childbirth and wishing to breastfeed, may be more prone to PPD, as are older mothers with established careers.

"In my study the women who had the greatest need for control often had the strongest wish to have a natural birth. If they had to have an epidural or a c-section, they could feel that they had not mastered the birth. They assume an extra burden with this idea of how the birth should be, and they feel that it says something about themselves as a woman and mother," reports Haga. PPD also impacts breastfeeding success for many new moms and may interrupt the bonding between mom and baby. Because there is a stigma associated with depression, the rates of PPD may be higher than currently reported.

Prevention is the key to reducing PPD rates, Haga argues. What crucial actions can we take? According to Haga, a vital step is "that new mothers receive practical and emotional support from their surroundings." Having social support from partners, as well as from others who can acknowledge and validate how mom feels is essential. Baby clinics apparently do not serve this function effectively as their efforts tend to "normalize" the difficult transition to parenthood. In addition, the duration of PPD can extend for several months, beyond the standard time frame during which a new mom is interacting with birth care providers and nurses.

Mom-to-mom support is one of the most valuable and essential components for parenting success, from our perspective. Consistent, long-term empathy, sharing, and community may not make the challenges of new motherhood disappear, but can empower women with the confidence they need for success, as well as to offer a forum for bonding and connecting with other women who are facing similar circumstances. Mom-focused communities, such as the Holistic Moms Network, help women to develop a strong social support network and find much-needed camaraderie during the postpartum period and beyond.

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