Understanding and Overcoming Maternal Depression: Part 3

Seeking and Finding Support for Postpartum Depression

Peggy Kaufman, M.S.W., M.Ed., is helping new mothers understand and overcome postpartum depression. More than 12 years ago she started Visiting Moms, a volunteer group of experienced mothers who visit a new mom weekly to “support, nurture and guide” her for up to a year. Three years ago, when Kaufman saw more women with PPD coming for help, she expanded the program to include a home visit by a social worker and psychologist.

Visiting Moms, which has become a model for other programs nationwide, initially served about 30 women a year in Boston. Now, more than 600 annually take advantage of the support and depression-related programs offered by Kaufman’s Center for Early Relationship Support, which is supported by Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Newton, Mass.

“Our families have become so fragmented,” Kaufman says, citing one of the reasons she was prompted to start Visiting Moms. “Women don’t have an aunt down the street who they can go and sit with in the afternoon.”

Isolation makes the early moments of motherhood especially tough. And whether you believe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are situational or rooted in biological imbalances, new mothers respond poorly to that stress.

“Mothers produce infants that are way beyond their ability to rear alone,” says Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, an anthropologist at the University of California – Davis and author of Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species. If humans evolved as a cooperative breeding society, as Hrdy suggests, then we’ve got to make sure that moms have access to a strong network of support services.

When that help is not forthcoming, Hrdy says, mothers will “terminate their investment” in their child, most often in the first 72 hours after birth, before lactation gets going. Termination can mean infanticide, abandonment or the emotional detachment seen in depression.

p.1 - Understanding and Overcoming Maternal Depression
p.2 - Is Postpartum Depression Underdiagnosed?
p.3 - Seeking (and Finding) Support
p.4 - The Need to Screen