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Postpartum Depression Information & Support: Interview with Rhonda Anderson

I most likely suffered from mild undiagnosed Postpartum Depression. That is why I feel it is important to disseminate information for help and support. From this article new moms and their loved ones can learn about Postpartum Depression, Baby Blues, and where to get help locally and nationally from Rhonda Anderson, President of the the Tucson Postpartum Depression Coalition and owner of Desert Bloom Doula. She is certified in Perinatal Mood disorders through Postpartum Support International. Thank you Rhonda for all you do!

What is the line between “baby blues” and depression?

Baby Blues, by definition is: You feel sad, lonely, restless or experience mood-swings or crying spells in the first few days after having your baby. Baby blues usually go away by themselves within a week or two of giving birth. You don’t need medical treatment for baby blues.

Depression is something that lasts longer than two weeks, and seems to get progressively worse. You may have bouts of crying, outburst of anger, feel disconnected or hyper-concerned, feel like you’re “going crazy”, feeling hopeless, anxious, cannot leave the house, cannot sleep or sleep so much that you cannot care for yourself or baby. These are just a few of the symptoms.

This is something that needs to be treated, either with medication or a combination of peer-support, medication, self care and extra rest. You should call your provider right away and be seen if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or others that are out of the realm of “baby blues”.

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?  Treated?

It is usually diagnosed by using a tool called the EPDS (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) or similar. It is a series of questions that you answer, usually in your pediatrician or OB’s office, or given by your doula if she’s trained to do so. Your score will then help the provider determine if what your dealing with is depression or perhaps anxiety, and then treatment is offered.

Treatment could be as simple as taking some vitamin D, getting more sun and finding a support group, or it could be all of that and medication, or medication and therapy. Rarely, cases are severe enough that a woman may need to be hospitalized for treatment. We never want to see women suffer so long that this is the next step.

“The important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. There is help out there, and you are NOT ALONE, though it feels like it when you are in the middle of it. With help, you WILL GET BETTER.”

We want to break the stigma of mental illness by talking freely about it wherever we can.

What makes you personally interested in this work? 

I became interested in this work because I suffered from postpartum anxiety after the birth of my own children, but was never offered help or support or even a diagnosis. It got progressively worse without treatment, until I was finally, around the time my youngest was three, able to ask for help, and get treated for anxiety and depression

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Postpartum Depression Rhonda Anderson
Meet Rhonda Anderson. Photo courtesy Desert Bloom Doula, LLC.

As my doula career matured, I saw the gap in our society. Women need community and care during pregnancy and postpartum. The TPDC was founded by Carole Sheehan, who at the time was an RN, and she too, saw the need for women to have a place to find resources and seek support. Carole also saw the need for providers to get more education and training in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The TPDC offers in-office trainings on how to screen for PMADS, and before COVID hit, we also held quarterly meetings for our community, in which we had guest speakers on the topic as well as other educational and networking opportunities.

How do you help moms? Are partners eligible?

 The TPDC helps moms in the ways I just stated above, with provider education, community education, as well as offering a resource list where they can find a mental health provider and/or OB that specializes in PMADS. In addition, we list support groups and other community offerings on our website (www.tucsonpostpartum.com) and stay connected to our community through our Facebook Page and our Instagram Page.

Our volunteers are wonderful at posting good content relevant to being a new mom. Lastly, we point women who reach out to us in the direction of one of the free support groups that are offered at the local hospitals in Tucson, as well as a few groups run by doulas. Our brochures are handed out to pregnant women in the OB offices, as well as given to them on the postpartum floors in their discharge papers, in every hospital in Tucson. The brochure is a great resource.

Though the TPDC doesn’t have partner-specific support, we do focus on the whole family, as we realize that if the new mom is suffering, then every single person within her family suffers as well. We refer partners to that same list of mental health providers if needed, as well as the Postpartum Support International website (postpartum.net) where they have listings for support groups and other resources for fathers.

How can expecting moms prepare and prevent depression?

 GET SUPPORT AND ASK FOR HELP. Like we prepare for and save for a wedding, we should take as much care to prepare for and save for our postpartum time. Lining up in home help ahead of time, from family or friends that can stay to help with a few overnights, help to come and do a chore or two or run errands, someone to put together a meal train for you, or in addition to baby items at your shower, have a doula-fund jar where friends and family can donate to pay for a postpartum doula.

It would be wonderful if people just magically knew what we needed in those early days of postpartum, but they don’t always know, so we need to get good at asking for what we need.  It is also important to guard our postpartum time, only allowing visitors in those early days that will come and see how YOU are doing, and offer help and support, and will not expect to be entertained and fed!

Other ideas are: Staying healthy and taking recommended supplements during pregnancy, getting adequate movement and rest, getting sunshine/vitamin D, nourishing your body with healthy food and taking at least ten minutes a day just for you. Seems insurmountable, but with help and support, it can be done. It is so necessary for your mental health.

 How can moms get help and support?

 Reaching out to their midwife or OB,and being honest about their symptoms; Contacting the TPDC at Tucsonpostpartum.com; calling the Arizona Warmline at 888-434-MOMS (6667); finding resources on the PSI website: Postpartum.net  or reaching out to their doula if they have one. I facilitate a support group and can help guide a woman to resources if she contacts me at rhonda@desertbloomdoula.com

For a crisis situation, call 911, go to an emergency room or call the Crisis Response line at 520-622-6000

Additional resources from Bonnie:

  • Postpartum Yoga for Holistic Healing and Joy. This on-line offering can provide holistic guidance for all aspects of yoga. The class includes 10 minute (and longer) body/mind/breath practices Rhonda mentions. Check out more information here.

  • Comprehensive Resource page including therapists and more

  • Sweet yoga moves for the early months.

  • Prenatal/Postpartum schedule.

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