Postpartum Support Groups Are Beneficial to Women Experiencing Perinatal Illness

A recent article in the Yakima Herald about the effectiveness of support groups for women with postpartum depression supported my belief that these types of groups are particularly valuable.

The story describes the journey of a public health nurse at the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic who conducts home visits with new moms and their babies. Although her work provided Jennifer Sumner with information about the signs of postpartum depression, after giving birth to her second child, “she started begging her husband to take her somewhere and leave her there, to start his life with someone else and let her just run away.”

Sumner is quoted as saying, “If I could’ve snapped my fingers and made myself disappear from this life, I would have. It was ‘the deepest, deepest sense of complete self-loathing and worthlessness, of hopelessness for the future.’”

In spite of her being shattered when the illness struck, Sumner says she still delayed seeking treatment “out of denial, guilt and shame.” Due to the stigma of mental illness, Sumner, as with so many other mothers, resisted getting the prompt treatment that is so desperately needed. This unfortunately delays recovery.

Yet fortunately, the public health nurse took her experience and devised a way to help assure that no other new mothers would endure a similar trial. She launched a support group — bolstered by a state grant — for women struggling with postpartum mood disorders and those adjusting to life after childbirth. The funds will provide more training and resources for local health care providers.

Ms. Sumner’s story resonated with me because I’ve facilitated support groups for over fifteen years. I’ve learned that these groups are a wonderful way for women to meet others who are suffering similar symptoms, and to help them feel less lonely, isolated, and alone.

Because of the intimate conversations and sharing that occurs in support groups, the women who participate often form close bonds and make lifelong friends. Typically, these types of meetings are free or low cost, so they can help women who aren’t able to afford individual treatment.

In my view, while support groups are indeed valuable — and can be part of an overall treatment plan — they are not a replacement or alternative to individual therapy from a specialist in perinatal disorders. (Those interested in finding a group can check the Postpartum Support International website.)

Readers of this blog should be aware that after the first of the year, I plan to start another session of my perinatal support group. Stay tuned to this page for details.


~ by ppdsus on November 11, 2014.

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