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Perinatal Wellness Program in Tulare County

IN THE July 16 ISSUE

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by Allison Lambert

Feeling a kick, hearing the heartbeat, seeing that first smile. The happy moments new moms experience can make it hard for many to feel comfortable admitting that they’re feeling down. Those “baby blues” become something they just can’t shake.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), perinatal depression, also known as postpartum depression or perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, strikes as many as one in five childbearing women in the United States. “Perinatal” is defined as the period around the time of birth until one year post partum. Perinatal depression can be experienced during pregnancy up to the child’s first year, and can take many different forms.

“Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, anxiety, tearfulness and intrusive thoughts are all ways that perinatal depression manifests itself,” says Cathy Volpa, Deputy Director of Public Health, Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency. “We’re here to eliminate the stigma, and tell new parents that it’s okay to speak up when you’re down.”

Volpa and the Public Health Department, along with a team of community based organizations that include nurses, and practitioners, do extensive work with moms recently delivered through Tulare County’s Perinatal Wellness Program (PWP), a part of the Maternal Child Adolescent Health division. Having just celebrated its one year anniversary in February, the PWP works to increase knowledge and screening for symptoms of perinatal depression and provide treatment for women who meet program criteria and are experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression.

Women who meet program eligibility criteria may be enrolled for the Perinatal Wellness Program, which features nurse home visitation, case management, therapeutic services and linkages to other community resources. The program sends a clear message: Perinatal depression is treatable.

“We understand that new moms are worried about the stigma of a mental illness, but knowing one’s own mental well being and asking for help is not a reason for shame. It’s a step of courage, a step towards a healthier mom and a healthier baby,” states Tammy Wiggins, PHN, RN, Maternal Child Adolescent Health Coordinator, Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency.

Those in the Perinatal Wellness Program agree that the best initial line of defense against perinatal depression is awareness and education.

“Unfortunately most families assume it will not happen to them, but when it does happen, those families are often ill prepared to deal with depression and its impact,” asserts Wiggins. “This is all part of strengthening the bonds between mother and child; this is part of the foundation for a lifetime of healthy well-being.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of Perinatal Depression, contact your personal care physician immediately. To learn more about perinatal depression, visit Postpartum Support International online at their website. This exceptional resource hosts a variety of resources; holds a weekly online chat with an expert, and features lists of local coordinators, doctors, and group meetings. For information by phone, call 1-800-944-4PPD. All phone calls will be returned within 24 hours.

For more information on Tulare County’s Perinatal Wellness Program, or other Maternal Child Adolescent Health programs, visit their website and click on the “Public Health” tab. For information by phone, call 559-623-0175.

Allison Lambert currently serves as the Media Specialist for the County of Tulare, Health & Human Services Agency. A Central Valley native by way of Los Angeles, Allison directs media, public relations, and community outreach and education for Tulare County HHSA. She can be reached at alambert@tularehhsa.org.

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