May 26, 2022

How to Cope with Postpartum Depression

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Naomi Savoie-Miller and Dr. Andrea McFerren of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. Together, they discuss how to cope with postpartum depression.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

    • What is postpartum depression
    • Postpartum depression risk factors and symptoms
    • How it feels to have PPD
    • The difference between the baby blues and PPD
    • Treatment for PPD

For more information on postpartum depression, please check out the following resources:

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan podcast, 107. Coming up, we discussed postpartum depression, covering signs to look for and ways to navigate through it.

Chuck Gaidica:
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan podcast, the podcast dedicated to exploring how we can improve our health and wellbeing through small, healthy habits we can start implementing right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica, and every other week we’ll sit down with a certified expert, in this case experts, to discuss topics that cover nutrition, fitness, a lot more. And on this episode, we’re diving into postpartum depression, something that about one in seven women who give birth experience.

Chuck Gaidica:
With us today are Naomi Savoie-Miller and Dr. Andrea McFerren, who are both from Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. Naomi Savoie-Miller is a social worker. She’s a group therapist in the Pine Rest Mother Baby Day Program for the last five years. She has her own children. She’s gone through a lot of training, and she’s got a puppy that keeps her busy. I’ve got a dog too. She thinks she’s a puppy.

Chuck Gaidica:
And Dr. Andrea McFerren, in her fifth and final year of psychiatry training. She’s going to become the lead on this program, this Mother Baby Program at Pine Rest, and has an extensive bio that takes her back to her residency at Georgetown University. She’s also coming through on her path, which is very interesting, out of biomedical engineering and following her way now to Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in West Michigan. It’s good to have you both with us.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Thank you, Chuck. It’s really nice to be here.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, Naomi, let’s start with you. Can you tell us, first of all, what is this program that you’re both involved in? This Mother Baby Day Program?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
Yeah. Chuck, thank you. It’s so good to be here. The Mother Baby Day Program at Pine Rest is a partial hospitalization program. So, that means that our moms come with us during the day and they get to go home at night. So, we help moms who are pregnant through three years postpartum, who are suffering from any mental health illness. So, postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, any spectrum of mental illness. And so, we work with them during the day and working on coping skills and support groups, working with families to learn how to support them better, and really just to help them feel confident in going back home to their family or their workplaces and resuming their life again.

Chuck Gaidica:
So Dr. McFerren, I know that this is a topic that we hear about a lot, especially as men we hear about it or will witness something, maybe some blues or something with our wife. In my case, we have five children. We’ve now got four grandchildren and two more on the way in November so it’s going to be a busy holiday season, but that’s a blessing. And so, I have seen these ups and downs in my own wife, but talk about this range of emotion that occurs as a starting point. Because there’s the joy, “Hey, we’re expecting.” And then there’s excitement, sometimes there fear, especially if it’s the first one, because kids don’t come with directions, right?

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
That’s right.

Chuck Gaidica:
And then there are hormones and all the rest of it. But talk us through a little bit about this process that women will go through that could lead to something that could be classified or diagnosed as postpartum depression.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yeah. So, there are a lot of things that we know likely contribute to postpartum depression, and I think just to understand that postpartum depression actually falls under a broader range, what we call perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, because we know that these symptoms can start even before somebody delivers or has their baby. So, during the pregnancy, we know that people can start to experience these symptoms.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
And when we think of nature and nurture, I think is something people bring up a lot, both things are often implicated when it comes to postpartum depression or anxiety. Some of them are definitely related to hormonal changes within a pregnant person’s body. So, we know that whenever somebody is pregnant, their body goes through huge changes. One is definitely the female hormones. So, things like estrogen and progesterone, which we often link to other changes throughout a woman’s lifespan. Those go through really big changes during pregnancy and postpartum. Stress hormones as well go through really significant changes.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
One that people don’t often think of is actually the body’s immune system. So, a growing baby is actually a foreign substance in somebody’s body, and obviously we don’t want a pregnant person’s body to attack that foreign substance. And so, the immune system actually has to go through really significant changes.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
And then finally another hormone, something called oxytocin. So, we often think of that in relation to emotional connection, but it’s also actually connected to labor during the labor and delivery process, and that goes through really significant changes. So, those are all hormonal changes that can happen within somebody’s body. I think outside of that, then you also have all of the social changes and lifestyle changes that can happen too.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, and a lot of those hormonal changes you’re speaking of could be occurring in women, and obviously maybe differently in men, but could be occurring in women regardless of whether they’re pregnant, right? I mean, stress hormones could be induced by stress at work or all of a sudden you’re having to do Zoom calls and it’s not something you’ve managed well in the past or something, right? So, everyday life super imposed on the fact that you’ve got something new happening in your body can turn into some issues.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yeah, exactly. So, some of these things we already know are connected to things like depression and anxiety outside of the postpartum period. So like you mentioned, stress hormones, immune system. So whenever we have inflammation or our bodies fighting an infection, we know somebody’s at a higher risk for things like depression and anxiety. And what we see during pregnancy and postpartum is even more substantial changes in these that far outweigh what you would see in everyday life.

Chuck Gaidica:
So Naomi, the women that you will see then in this Mommy Baby Day Program, they’re coming and getting a bit of a break from that normal daily stress activity that may be occurring at home. Is that the reason for visiting you during the day and being able to go home at night?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
I would say that’s definitely helpful to the therapeutic process that they have that time away from just the pressures of the daily routine. But really, a big part of it is that they can come learn with us during the day and then go home at night and practice their skills. And we have a nursery right now through eight months, so they can bring baby with them if they want to our program as well. So, it’s a really beautiful setup too, to practice those caregiving skills as well.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
Or even for some of our mama’s, practice leaving baby with someone else for a little bit. Sometimes that part can feel really hard too. So, I would say the main reason for the day program is just to keep them with their family as much as possible while they’re learning and getting better.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, Dr. McFerren, can you give us an idea of what postpartum depression is? When do we move from watching our spouse or someone in our life move from having some blues to diagnostic postpartum?

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yeah, it’s a great question. We know that the postpartum blues really occur in a large, a large majority of postpartum individuals. And so, that can look like some tiredness, some signs that look similar to depression. Obviously some of that is also related to just having a new infant in the home when you’re waking up every hour to feed them.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
But if it starts to move into a place of just really feeling worthless, feeling hopeless, not having really any desire to connect with baby at all, especially if it starts to bleed into a place of just thoughts of, “Man, I feel like I can’t do this. I am no good as a parent. This is never going to get better. This baby may even be better off without me.” Those are all signs of definitely more severe symptoms than the baby blues.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Also, the time period. So, the baby blues are actually related to some of those hormonal changes that I mentioned before. So, changes in the estrogen and the progesterone are likely, we think, one of the major causes of the baby blues. Those should largely resolve by about two weeks after delivery. So, if somebody is still experiencing even those mild symptoms after about two weeks of having their baby, then I think it’s really important to start having those conversations about, “Do I need to get engaged and find some support somewhere else?”

Chuck Gaidica:
So I guess, because I’m not really knowledgeable about this and have never heard this phrase, is there such a thing as pre-partum depression? In other words, what you’re describing seems like it starts far before, or could, far before the actual birth of a child. Am I wrong?

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
No, you are not wrong at all. So, that’s why we talk about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders as opposed to just postpartum. So, when we think of risk factors for postpartum depression, one of those is actually depression that starts before the pregnancy period. So, if somebody has a personal history of depression or anxiety, they’re more likely to have either worsening symptoms or a return of symptoms during the postpartum period. We also know that because of some of those hormonal changes and just life changes throughout the pregnancy itself, people can develop depression and anxiety and other mental health struggles during the pregnancy.

Chuck Gaidica:
So Naomi, let’s talk about some of the ladies that you may see so they could come in and they could be experiencing anxiety. Maybe it is depression. What else are you seeing with them, and are you able to get them to talk about things maybe with you and others with the doctor that they’re not able to share, or maybe they’re just not verbal with their spouse?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
Sure. So, I love this question, Chuck, because I think there’s so much stigma surrounding postpartum depression and anxiety. So, I do see moms that have a full range of symptoms anywhere from postpartum depression and anxiety, to maybe they had a psychotic episode and they were inpatient and now they’re getting ready to go back home. So, the symptoms really, they can look so different.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
But for whatever the illness is, there’s definitely a stigma and a very isolating factor to all of it where many, many of our moms feel all alone or they feel like they’re crazy. They feel afraid to tell maybe even their partner or their spouse about their symptoms, because their fear of judgment. Or for example, a lot of our moms might struggle with intrusive thoughts or scary thoughts that come out of nowhere about something bad happening to them or baby, or even them doing something to their baby. It’s a very scary thought, and it’s also a symptom, but because they’re so afraid of maybe CPS getting called or people thinking that they’re a terrible mom, they tend to suffer in silence.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
And so, I think no matter what the symptoms are that she’s experiencing, coming to this group program, seeing other moms there and connecting with them and just knowing that they’re not alone and that it’s not their fault, what they’re experiencing; it’s just a huge, huge benefit to the therapy.

Chuck Gaidica:
And Naomi, let me jump back to you for a minute. This idea of having a nursery there and also giving moms a break, right? That they actually have a safe place to discuss whatever’s on their mind, which is critically important, but also the idea that they know they are safe, their baby is safe while they’re exploring their way back to healthfulness. That’s got to be a highly impactful thing for these moms.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
I would say so. I love this idea that our moms are getting a break, because it’s true in a sense. They’re getting a break from not being in the home, but also I think our moms would probably call us out and be like, “My dishes are piling up at home,” right? So, it’s funny because it’s like they are with us experiencing that atmosphere, but they also do still have these demands outside at home.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
I agree. I love the nursery. We have a wonderful nursery attendant, like I said before, because some of our moms will say, “I don’t need that program because I’m so well bonded to my baby.” And so, I think it’s really important to talk about that too, that some of our moms might feel very well bonded to their baby and they’re still suffering with mental health symptoms that they need to come get help for. Some of our moms might have more of an anxious attachment to baby where it feels very distressful for them to be separated from baby, even for short periods of time. And so, it can be very therapeutic to practice that. And for many of our moms, like you said, Chuck, it’s just wonderful for them to be able to come to program, be with baby, but then also have that break as they need to throughout the day.

Chuck Gaidica:
So Dr. McFerren, how much of what you see is also, you can help a mom deal with in a very natural way. We were watching one of our favorite shows the other night and there was a flashback to a moment where their children were little. They were babies and 4:30 in the morning and they’re crying and the wife is trying to get the husband up and he’s snoring away and he’s not, he’s oblivious. Maybe on purpose, I’m not sure. I’m not saying I’ve ever done that. But this is important stuff because there are these natural things that occur in the process of becoming a parent that don’t necessarily mean you’re unhealthy, but yet they can apply dramatic pressures.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s something that I think we tend to spend a lot of time on. So when it comes to what can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety in the postpartum period, certainly we can have a conversation about medications, because a lot of postpartum individuals or surprised to learn that most medications are safe to use even if they decide to breastfeed or even throughout pregnancy.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
But aside from that, we want to help support them in finding those things outside of medications that can be helpful. So, one thing we talk to a lot of postpartum people about is, who is your support system? Who is that community that you can lean on, somebody that can come over to your house and hold your baby for an hour so that you can do whatever you want? Even if that’s just go take a nap or just go sit in a corner and be by yourself for a bit so you don’t have an infant just clinging to you, or if you want to go get a meal.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Also breaking up that sleep schedule. There’s tons and tons of evidence in regards to the relationship between good sleep and our mental health. So, sleep is when our brain’s clean itself essentially at night. And so, when you’re having that interrupted sleep, waking up frequently throughout the night to feed baby, it can be really detrimental. And so, doing what you can to try to take shifts, we often recommend.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
If you’re breastfeeding, try to do that last feeding of the evening and then go to bed and maybe your partner, if you have a partner or another support person in the home with you, maybe they can watch baby for the first half of the night so you can get a solid maybe four hours of sleep before you have to wake up again to feed. So, finding ways to share those responsibilities is really, really important.

Chuck Gaidica:
And as you’re discussing this, so many of these paths, these runways can become treacherous. I know that in my own family’s life with my wife, with some of our daughters; there’s just been an issue somewhere along the way with nursing. That alone can kick somebody into being anxious and down because it’s not working. “I just can’t make this happen, and I’m getting all the inputs from La Leche League and everything else.”

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Right.

Chuck Gaidica:
And you’re like, “Oh, I’m a failure,” and I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed this happen. And that alone is a pressure that you wouldn’t think could lead to other issues, but I guess it can.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Absolutely. It’s one of those times when people just get tons of advice that is really not always helpful. That’s actually something we tend to talk about in the program with the postpartum parents is just, “Hey, what is helpful, what’s not helpful?” And giving them permission to not take the advice that is not helpful for them. And when you think of risk factors for postpartum depression, one of those actually happens to be difficulty with breastfeeding. It’s something that a lot of people can feel shame about.

Chuck Gaidica:
Jumping back to Naomi, can you discuss this idea as a therapist? How critically important is it for you to just be a good listener? Do you find that sometimes even if there’s a clinical diagnoses attached to it that sometimes moms just need to talk to somebody and talk this out? How helpful is that, in your experience?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
Yeah, I would say it’s very critical back to what you and Dr. McFerren were talking about earlier. The postpartum period is a time where everyone is telling you what to do or what you should be doing differently. And so, when our moms come to our program, we really just want to do our best just to listen to her, to give her a space to process how she’s feeling, to take that time, and then for her to get that support from other moms; that she’s not alone and she’s not the only one that feels that way. And really, one of the main goals, I think I touched on this before, is for her to believe in her own self as a mom and her own decision making, and that she doesn’t have to keep trying to listen and do what her mom and her aunts and her friends, what her friends are doing, that she’s her own person.

Chuck Gaidica:
And Naomi, back to this idea of talking this through, are you finding that they are able to bring to the table, these moms, some dynamic at home as well, maybe with their husband? Are they able to talk to you freely about that issue, about how this could even be affecting their spouse?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
Oh, absolutely. And relationships are so important, right? We heal in relationship and sometimes we suffer in relationship, right? And there’s no time that I can really think of in life where there’s more going on than bringing a new child into the world and going from two to three or three to four, that both people are really affected by that. Relationship is affected. And so, having a safe place to talk about that and really, we do our best as well to reach out to the partner, to give the partner resources. Because we know that when the mother goes through any perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, that it affects the partner as well. And so, we want them to feel supported and have services too.

Chuck Gaidica:
So doctor, let me ask a question. I don’t know if it’s a dumb question or not. Can men experience postpartum depression? And I don’t mean just by osmosis, are we apt to be able to fall into this as well?

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
That is a great question. I don’t believe there are any dumb questions. So I say yes, absolutely men can experience postpartum depression. We actually have seen evidence that for both men and women, the postpartum period, particularly the first three months has the highest rates of depression across the board for everybody. And a lot of the things we’ve already talked about in regards to just changes in the relationship can definitely contribute to it.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
A lot of dads in the postpartum period often talk about feeling like, “I want to help, but I don’t know how,” and some of that is just naturally related to the fact that the infant often wants the mother in order to feed. They know the mother’s sounds and smells, and so that’s naturally where they want to go. And so, dads end up often in this place of, “Hey, I want to help, and often I don’t know how to help because I can’t maybe feed the baby in the same way that you can,” or, “I can’t soothe the baby in the same way that you can.” And so, helping them to learn ways that they can help support their partner during that time is really important.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
And I think on top of that, there is also some evidence that men can experience some hormonal changes in the postpartum period as well, which we don’t know quite as much about, but it is really interesting the way… You mentioned kind of postpartum depression by osmosis, but there is something to the fact that men can experience some hormonal changes too.

Chuck Gaidica:
And I suspect that part of the issue, and I’ve dealt with this in my own family in a different way not associated with postpartum, mental health issues. For guys who may be wired to be guys and being very broad in general, the notion of just, “Snap out of it.” I mean, just, “I don’t understand what’s happening. Can’t you just change it?” And I think sometimes that attitude is comes off, and it actually is not as caring, right? But sometimes it’s just the way we’re wired to be… I know I am, I’ll just speak for myself. I’m a fixer. It breaks my heart when I can’t make something better for somebody, and I can just imagine the burden that could place on a spouse. That you’re just, “I just want to be there for you, but what can I do? And nothing is working.” So, that alone could be pressure.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of times as a society, we place this assumption that men are there to fix things, like you said, in really broad terms, rather than giving them freedom to just sit with the emotional experience without having to do anything about it. So, just being present.

Chuck Gaidica:
So Naomi, the program that you and the doctor are involved in out at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is unique, or is it something that we’re starting to see populate across Michigan and America?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
That’s a great question. Yeah. So, our Mother Baby Partial Program is one of few in the nation. I think we were the third in the country to start. And there’s more now, I think it’s around 10 in the nation. But as far as the Midwest, there’s very few. There’s no other ones in the state of Michigan. We do have moms sometimes that travel from out of state to come to our program. So, it’s a very important resource for the community.

Chuck Gaidica:
And Naomi, it would seem too that if you don’t have that resource, and it sounds like they are far and few between, that part of the stigma for a mom could be that the only other options could include other centers or other places where you can go that don’t really have an approachable name, like a Mother Baby Day Program, right. I mean, that just sounds like something healthful. So, part of the stigma could be that you’re going to find mental health services at places that may cause you some anxiety before you even get there.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
I would agree, absolutely. And even just the fear that some of our moms have about going inpatient and being separated from their babies, I think keeps moms from seeking treatment. Because they know that something’s wrong, but there’s a lot of fear about, “If I share, or if I try to get help, are they going to separate me from my baby, or will I lose control at that point?” And so, I really hope that from this program that moms get the message that it’s a safe place to come and to get better with your baby.

Chuck Gaidica:
So Dr. McFerren, let’s back up just a minute as we start to get close to our time here, but let’s go back to this idea of how a mom and/or her spouse can determine that something is going on, that they’re experiencing either baby blues or something more critically important. Give us some ideas of what we’re looking for.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yeah. So, when we think about depression or postpartum depression, things that we notice changes in are things like sleep. So, sometimes that can look like sleeping all the time or not being able to sleep at all. So, you’ll have moms who will say things like, “The baby’s sleeping, but I just can’t fall asleep because my mind is going constantly.” So, even when they’re given opportunities to sleep, are they able to fall asleep?

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Another is eating. So, either feeling like their appetite has just massively increased or maybe that they don’t have any appetite whatsoever. Things like their energy level throughout the day, their concentration. I know people may have heard of the term mom brain, which is a real thing related to hormonal changes again, but also if it goes to a different place where it’s like, “Hey, I am just so stuck in these thoughts that are going over and over and over in my mind,” that can be a really big sign.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
And then also, like I said, when it starts to move into that space of just starting to feel worthless about yourself as a parent or your ability to care for your child, or just feeling like, “This is never going to get better. I’m never going to be able to sleep again,” or whatever that worried thought is, those are all really important things to look out for.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
And then I think on top of that, or something that Naomi had alluded to before is, sometimes some of those scary thoughts that can come in. So it’s really, really natural for a lot of parents actually in the postpartum period to experience what we call intrusive thoughts. So, thoughts that can come out of nowhere into your mind. And those may be thoughts like, “What if I accidentally drop baby?” Or something we call phantom crying. So if you’re in another room and you’re like, “Did I just hear baby cry? I’m not sure,” those are actually really normal. And from an evolutionary standpoint, they help us keep babies safe. So, they’re protective.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
But sometimes they can become so distressing and so consistent that you notice things like, “Mom is avoiding baby because she is so scared she’s going to drop baby,” or “Mom won’t give baby a bath because she’s really worried that she’s going to drop baby in the water.” Things like that. And so, if it’s impacting your day-to-day life, or if it’s impacting your ability to connect with baby, absolutely we want to be there to help.

Chuck Gaidica:
Naomi, it seems like it’s critically important for you and the doctor and whatever other members of the team help moms and dads get this idea of some self-awareness, right? I’m a pretty happy go lucky guy, and my happiness can lead to joy. For me, joy seems to be something that’s more extended. Conversely, I would think that if somebody is experiencing sadness, a mom is experiencing sadness in this postpartum journey in her life, that one of the things to be careful for and self aware of is that sadness is normal, right? We can be sad today, but it shouldn’t be extending itself into intrusive thoughts, anxiety, depression. Am I right?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
I think that’s a great question. So yes, I would say we all experience all range of emotions, right? Actually one symptom of depression, anxiety that I don’t think we’ve mentioned yet is irritability and postpartum rage and anger that can come out of nowhere, and I think that can feel like a really scary symptom for moms. And I think what we talk about a lot is to trust yourself. If you feel like something’s wrong in your gut, it’s wrong, something is wrong and it’s time to get help.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
And also for family members and support people that there’s a way to validate without… I think we think we’re validating sometimes when we tell a mom, “Oh, that’s normal, that’s really normal.” But I think sometimes, like you said before, Chuck, the importance of listening. I think sometimes when we tell a mom, “Oh, that’s normal,” that we stop listening and we don’t realize because we’re feeling uncomfortable.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
And so, I would really just encourage family members and support people; if a mom says something’s wrong, don’t be so quick to say that’s normal. Listen to her, because she might be in more distress than you think. And I think that’s a way we need to start talking about mental health in this period of life, and really anytime, but we’re talking right now about mama so that it is common. It’s not normal. And I think if we can stop normalizing mental illness to moms, we don’t understand that we’re invalidating them in that. So if we can listen to them and then help them get treatment, because it is very, very treatable. Like Dr. McFerren mentioned before; medication, social support, and therapy. It’s very treatable illness and she deserves to feel better, and her family deserves for her to feel better too.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. I love that whole part of this conversation because that listening piece, Doctor, is important and I, to be honest, had to learn it by trial and error and it applies to other places in life. It’s like going, sadly, to a funeral. You want to somehow say some words because you don’t know what to say. And yet in many cases in life, and I think this could be included with moms going through what they’re going through, is that they’re blessed to have a child and then you’re coming out through that. And if they’re experiencing something, sometimes all of us just need someone to hold our hand, either literally or otherwise, and just listen. We don’t have to offer answers because sometimes that’s even more wobbly, right? We don’t quite know what to say.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yes, absolutely. I think it can be incredibly healing just to ask somebody, “Hey, what has this experience been like for you?” Or, “What’s going on for you right now?” And then the power of just sitting there and listening openly, again without adding in that advice that we so often want to give and that so many people get in the postpartum period, just sitting there and listening to them in a nonjudgmental way and recognizing where that pain or fear is coming from is incredibly powerful.

Chuck Gaidica:
So before we go, Doctor give us, and I know it’s so contextual because we’ve got so many people experiencing different things and reasons in their life why they may be visiting you, but for postpartum treatments, what would your encouragement be that a mom that’s coming to visit you or hears this and needs to talk to their own doctor about it or therapist; what are the treatments that are in the continuum of things that they should know they could participate in and not be afraid of?

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Yeah, absolutely. So like I mentioned before, I always like to start by talking about, what are those things in regards to daily lifestyle and support changes that we can help somebody maybe strengthen? So, doing things like coming up with a sleep schedule with their support person, trying to find meals that are quick and easy, trying to take away some of that shame or blame of, “Oh, maybe I cook these meals all the time,” and recognizing this is a time in your life when you do not need to be cooking three course meals for your family. It is okay to get something that is quick and easy. So, taking away some of those responsibilities.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Being able to have them connect with other people is really important, as well as being able to get up and move their body whenever they’re able to, I think can be really helpful. And then aside from that, so the therapy piece is really, really helpful. Depending on what somebody’s experience was during pregnancy or postpartum, there may be some really specific things that they need to talk about.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
One thing we haven’t really mentioned at all is that 50% of pregnancies are actually unplanned. So, the pregnancy itself can sometimes be really challenging for individuals. And aside from that, you can also have things like infertility that they may have been struggling with for years, or maybe an infant loss. So, somebody whose baby who died either in the pregnancy or in childbirth, they are still at risk for things like postpartum depression, and those come with their own traumas and pains. And so, being with somebody who is trained in what that can look like and how we can navigate those challenging emotions is really important.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
And then aside from that, also medication. So, a lot of the antidepressants and anxiety medication that we use to treat depression and anxiety and OCD and psychosis outside of the postpartum period; many, many, many of them are safe to use during pregnancy and postpartum, even while breastfeeding.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. That’s really good to know. Naomi, as we wrap up here, do you want to give us any takeaways from your vantage point of things either we have or haven’t discussed that will be helpful?

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
Yeah. I think I would just say to our mamas and dads and partners listening, just to trust your gut. If you feel like something’s wrong, something’s wrong. If you don’t recognize yourself, if you feel like you’ve lost your identity in this time of your life with bringing life into the world, that you’re not alone and it’s not your fault and that you really deserve to feel better and get care.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah. That’s great. Doctor, any other closing thoughts as we wrap up?

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
I would just say everybody’s experience of the postpartum period is different. And if somebody feels like their experience, like Naomi said, is just leaving them feel lost, alone, not sure who they are or if they can get better; just knowing that there is help and that it will get better and we can get them to that place of feeling healthy and whole again.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, it’s great having both of you, and actually leaving it on an encouraging note, I think is so important and impactful for all of us. Thank you Naomi Savoie-Miller and Dr. Andrea McFerren from Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. You both take care.

Dr. Andrea McFerren:
Thank you so much, Chuck.

Naomi Savoie-Miller:
Yeah, Chuck. Thank you.

Chuck Gaidica:
We want to thank you for listening to A Healthier Michigan podcast, brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show and you want to know more, you can check us out online at AHealthierMichigan.org/podcast. You can leave us reviews or ratings on Apple Podcast or Stitcher, and you can get other episodes, we’re up to 107 today so you can get all of our previous episodes, new episodes. You can take us on a walk or a jog and use your smartphone or tablet, and be sure to subscribe to us on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Be well.