It thrills me that two of my favorite organizations have come together to address perinatal mental health. Part of the mission of the collaboration between ICEA and Postpartum Support International is to incorporate perinatal mood and anxiety disorders into the education and certification curriculum. This is actually a grea-big-deal as I am sure you have noticed quite a bit of the training out there is somewhat lacking in this area. Just to give an example right off the bat-we usually talk about postpartum depression but in fact any of these issues can and often do surface during pregnancy. There is quite a bit that needs to change in terms of what we learn and what we teach our clients about these issues and ICEA is taking a step in the right direction.
It wasn’t hard to convince anyone on the ICEA board that changes needed to be made in order to incorporate perinatal mental health into the curriculum. The revision of the ICEA position paper on postpartum emotional disorders has already begun. Not only is ICEA rewriting the position paper but ICEAs own president-elect Nancy Lantz will be speaking at the Postpartum Support International annual conference in Seattle this September.
Nancy has worked as a registered nurse, educator and manager in a hospital setting for over thirty-three years. Her experience in the field of Maternal-Child Health is vast and quite impressive. ICEA is proud she will be representing all of us at the PSI conference. Along with Emily Dossett, Kimmelin Hull, Walker Karraa and Penny Simkin they will be addressing the topic: “Bringing Birth to the Table; Childbirth Educations and Doula Care in perinatal mental heatlh.” A powerful subject to be discussed by some incredible women.
I have spoken to birthworkers in the past who feel this topic may be out of our scope of practice. I believe, as does ICEA that pregnancy and postpartum emotions and mental health issues should be discussed in classes as well as between the doula and the family. In a very real sense education could be the difference between life and death. It is not a topic that should be brushed over, sugar coated or overlooked. Education about signs, symptoms and resources are crucial in helping families find the support they need. Often childbirth educators and doulas are the first person a new mom will turn to. We need to know the right questions to ask-are you sleeping? How much sleep are you getting? Are you eating, how is your appetite? Have you been able to get out? What are the red flags, what should we be looking for? We use our intuition in our work; its what makes us good at what we do. If we sense something is wrong we have to ask the hard questions. It is our place-obviously we will not diagnose, we will not treat, but we can find out what is going on and provide our clients with the appropriate resources.
Speaking of appropriate resources, do you know where to send your clients, your friends? Not every therapist is trained in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I once had a doctor issue a doula client a prescription for anti-depressants via email, without ever having met her! Not every provider knows what medication to give to a breastfeeding mom. Do you know about the local support groups in your area? Have you heard of the Edinburgh scale?
We also need to let others know its not just about postpartum depression-signs and symptoms can surface during pregnancy. We have to follow up with our clients, check in with them and if they confide in us we have to be able to be comfortable with what they are saying, validate what they are feeling, assure them they will get better and know where to send them. If we have to-get their partner or mother on the phone-continue to be their advocate. They are most likely feeling ashamed and afraid and they need us probably now more then ever.
So what can we do, how can we make this better for us as educators and doulas so that we can in turn help our families? What kinds of trainings, tools and resources would you like to see made available? What would you like to put in mom’s hand? I know our class time is limited but this is not a topic to be timid about so how can we best utilize the information and get our message across? We have to know the facts and we have to have the tools to empower our moms to take an informed and active role in their health-physical and mental.
We would love to hear from you. What teaching strategies are you already using, what has worked? What hasn’t? Do you use a video? Do you role-play? What handouts do you have? What resources are in your area? Lets support ICEA and PSI and let’s work together to create change.
For more information about the PSI and the conference please visit their website. For those of you who are unable to make it to the conference this year conference recordings are available for purchase.