Postpartum depression is one of many mood and anxiety disorders that affect women and families during pregnancy and around the time of birth. Left untreated, maternal depression can lead to long-term depression in the mother, a lack of emotional availability for the baby, and detrimental outcomes in the development of the fetus, newborn, and child. Postpartum psychosis, in which there is a severe break in reality, is NOT an extreme form of postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis is an illness completely separate from other kinds of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. It is an extremely rare life-threatening medical emergency, occurring in only 1-2% of births, and often features delusions and hallucinations. And, of those cases, only 4-5% result in infanticide.
The tragic circumstances surrounding Carol Coronado and the deaths of her children speak to the urgent need to address mental health disorders surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. “We, as a community, owe it to this family to find out what truly happened and help other women who are struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders,” says Caron Post, PhD, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force.
“What we have known for some time is that the mental health needs of pregnant and new mothers are not being addressed adequately. We must work with systems, organizations, and individuals who are providing care to mothers and families during pregnancy and the postpartum period so that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are identified and addressed in a timely and culturally appropriate manner,” states Dr. Post.
Women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders often do not speak out due to the stigma associated with mental illness. However, these disorders are extremely common. According to the 2012 Los Angeles Mommy & Baby (LAMB) survey conducted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, of the more than 130,000 births occurring in Los Angeles County that year, over 60,000 mothers self-reported experiencing a depressed mood after pregnancy. Yet, less than half of the mothers who responded to the survey reported being asked about depression or anxiety by a healthcare provider at a postpartum visit.
If you think you or a loved one is suffering from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, please speak to your healthcare provider or contact Postpartum Support International at 1-855-277-7462. In Los Angeles, you can call 211.
Notes for the Editor:
The mission of the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force is to remove barriers to the prevention, screening and treatment of prenatal and postpartum depression in Los Angeles County. Founded in 2007, the Task Force is a coalition composed of over 50 public and private non-profit agencies as well community leaders, research partners and advocates for mothers, infants, and families. It also includes grassroots participation by survivors of maternal depression and affected family members. Through its programs and initiatives, the Task Force aims to: (1) Raise public awareness of the disorder so that women who are suffering are not ashamed or embarrassed to seek help; (2) Increase perinatal depression screening and referral rates among community and health care providers; and (3) Advocate for legislation that supports the identification and treatment of perinatal depression. The Task Force is a project of Community Partners, which serves as its 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor.