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For Immediate Release:
May 07, 2010
For more information contact:
Public Health Communications
(213) 240-8144
media@ph.lacounty.gov


Strengthen the Bonds between Moms and Babies
May is Perinatal Depression Awareness Month

LOS ANGELES - May has been declared Perinatal Depression Awareness Month in Los Angeles County by the Board of Supervisors. The observance, held in the same month as Mother's Day, is designed to increase awareness and education about perinatal depression, encourage the use of depression screening tools, and improve the availability of effective treatment and support services for maternal mental health.

"Mother's Day is not only a time to celebrate mothers everywhere, but also an opportunity to provide support and encouragement to a pregnant or new mother. The feelings associated with carrying a fetus, bringing a new life into the world, and anticipating the hard work that lies ahead can be overwhelming. In some cases, negative feelings can turn into depression, anxiety and panic disorder," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "If perinatal depression is left untreated, it can have devastating consequences for women and children. This observance is one step toward offering support and resources pregnant women and new mothers need."

"Perinatal" defines the period around the time of birth. Perinatal depression, also known as maternal depression or perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, strikes as many as one in four childbearing women in the U.S. Feelings of depression associated with birth can last from pregnancy up to the child's first year, and can take many different forms, including panic disorder and psychosis (defined as having delusions or strange beliefs, particularly about the baby; hallucinations; feeling very irritated; hyperactivity; paranoia; and rapid mood swings).

Untreated depression during pregnancy has been associated with inadequate prenatal care, substance abuse, pre- eclampsia (high blood pressure), and reduced fetal growth. In many cases:

  • There is an increased risk of low-birthweight and premature delivery.
  • Women are less likely to make and keep medical appointments.
  • It is harder for a mother to bond with her baby.
  • A mother's risk for self-injury and suicide increases.
  • The lifelong physical and emotional health of the child is impaired.
  • In Los Angeles County, 39% of women who have given birth reported feelings of depression, while only 3% were diagnosed with a mental health problem. 18% of new mothers reported they did not have the support of a husband or live- in partner while they were pregnant. Additionally, 47% of women said they were not asked about feelings of depression or anxiety by a health care provider during their pregnancy.

    "As a survivor of severe postpartum depression, I know firsthand what it's like to experience each day and night as a cruel eternity," said Kimberly Wong, founder and chair of the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force. "A week after my daughter's birth, I found myself unable to sleep, eat, or even follow my own thoughts to completion. I realized this was something very serious, although I didn't know it had a name. With the help of therapy, support groups and medication, I not only survived, but am thriving. Pregnant women and new moms should not blame themselves, nor suffer in silence."

    Health care providers are urged to screen patients for potential risks of perinatal depression, both during and after pregnancy. Family members of pregnant women and new mothers should also be educated as to the warning signs and symptoms, and on what they can do to better support new moms.

    For more information on perinatal depression, please visit the following:

  • http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov
  • http://lacountyperinatalmentalhealth.org
  • http://www.labestbabies.org
  • http://www.postpartumprogress.com
  • The Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force includes the LA Best Babies Network, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Programs, and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, among others. The Task Force was active in the successful passage ACR 105, a resolution that declares each May as Perinatal Depression Awareness Month for the state of California.

    The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: LAPublicHealth.


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    Related Information Site(s): Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force | LA Best Babies Network