I sent this to ACOG today via snail mail. It speaks for itself. Pray that it makes a difference for future women who will battle postpartum illness.
To The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
On February 22, 2011, I developed significant postpartum mood disorder symptoms.
At 3 months postpartum with my second child, I sought care from my OB/GYN office immediately. As a registered nurse, I have a moderate knowledge base of postpartum illness and knew what was happening.
My scheduled appointment was with a physician whom I preferred not to see due to a lack of bedside manner. I could have waited three weeks to see my “regular” OB/GYN for my previously scheduled annual exam, but I was desperate for help as soon as possible.
When I tearfully shared what I was going through, this physician looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t know what this is, but it’s not postpartum depression. You need to see a psychiatrist. I’ll write you a script for Prozac.”
I felt CRUSHED. I walked out of the office, script in hand, wondering why he would say such a thing. I was taught that postpartum illness could develop within the first year of birth.
The following weeks brought an appointment with a not so helpful psychiatric nurse practioner and untoward side effects from the Prozac. When I followed up with my preferred OB/GYN for my annual exam, she apologized for the comments the first physician had made and said, “This is SO postpartum related.”
After searching for more resources, I found a therapist who specializes in postpartum mood disorders. She directed me to a reproductive psychiatrist that assured me I was not going crazy, and the exact nature of my symptoms were experienced by many women. My medication regimen was adjusted, and she was astute enough to recheck my TSH after noting I was trending toward hyperthyroidism about a month before the onset of my symptoms.
I was then referred to an endocrinologist when my TSH level had swung in the opposite direction. After a thyroid ultrasound and a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease, I began taking Synthroid.
After months of therapy, medication, and support I have been healed.
But I am angry. If I had been a patient lacking the nursing knowledge I have, I shudder to think what may have come of my situation. The first time a mom seeks help for a postpartum mental health related issue sets the tone for her entire recovery. Encountering this particular physician’s response appalled me then, and it appalls me now. Did I mention he is the head of the practice?
My purpose in writing this letter to ACOG is to ask the following:
Why, why, why in 2012 are physicians who practice OB/GYN not all on the same proverbial page regarding the mental heath care of postpartum women?
What is ACOG doing to educate these physicians to prevent a situation such as mine from happening?
Why is it so difficult to find postpartum resources? I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. It took me many hours of searching for the “right” people to help me.
I can tell you that at least 12 people directly contributed to my ongoing recovery. That’s not including people I encountered along the way who weren’t already directly involved in my life.
Twelve people helped me, and one physician nearly ruined me.
I literally have to fight the urge to tell my story to every pregnant woman or mom with a newborn that I see.
I truly look forward to hearing a response from ACOG and hope that my questions will not be overlooked or brushed aside as my initial road to recovery was.
My Real Name Here 🙂