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A Functional Medicine Approach to Perinatal Mental Health – Part One

February 18th, 2014 by avatar

 In a two part post this week, regular contributor Kathy Morelli shares information about and an interview with Kelly Brogan, MD on her nontraditional approach to working with women who are dealing with perinatal mental health issues.  Dr. Brogan shares information on incorporating a whole body Functional Medicine approach alongside traditional Western medicine to help and support women dealing with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Part two of this short blog series runs on Thursday. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.

Creative Commons Image: Pamela Machado

Creative Commons Image: Pamela Machado

I’ve been interested in Integrative medicine for many years. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from Science & Sensibility readers and my psychotherapy clients that they are very interested in holistic approaches to their health.

On a personal level, I struggled with depression at different times in my life. Nineteen years ago, I suffered a long postpartum depression. I didn’t want to take any psychotropic drugs as I was breastfeeding; there wasn’t much research available then about medication and breastfeeding. I looked for other ways to heal. In the short term, homeopathy is what healed my severe depression. On a longer term basis, I studied many forms of mindbody healing: diet, exercise, bodywork and professional counseling techniques have been my holistic program for mental and physical health. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had depression in 17 years.

On a professional level, in my clinical practice, I’ve seen the whole gamut of results in my clients’ levels of anxiety and depression when using psycho-trophic drugs: successful, lackluster and very poor results. So, I’m always searching for complementary and gentle therapies to add to my own toolbox and referral list to improve my clients’ mental health.

Disclosure: I want to clarify that I’m not a doctor and I’m not licensed to prescribe medication, but in my role as a licensed counselor, I often share clients with psychiatrists, who do prescribe medications.

Medication Taper: I want to clarify that this article does not suggest that women should discontinue their medication.

In some ways, what is old is new again! Conceptually, functional medicine (FM) mirrors the approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which approaches the patient from a holistic level. However, functional medicine is an evolutionary development in the practice of modern conventional medicine. FM is a systems biology approach. FM uses all the tools now available to the modern medical doctor: current assessment and diagnostic technology, cutting edge research into the interaction of the endocrine, gastrointestinal, and immune systems with our environment and treatment with a range of integrative and pharmaceutical medical therapies.

A doctor trained in this sophisticated approach performs a personal and careful assessment of an individual in order to find and then correct the underlying imbalances in the body, rather than treat separate symptoms. This is a departure from the conventional “organ based” practice of medicine, whereby the focus of diagnosis and treatment of a person is set up in silo-like medical specialties.

Dr. Kelly Brogan practices Holistic Women’s Psychiatry in this manner. She has impressive academic credentials, having studied cognitive neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and medicine at Cornell University Medical College. She is Board Certified in both Reproductive Psychiatry and Integrative Medicine and certified in Endocrinology. She is a leader in Functional Medicine. For her clinical work in Holistic Women’s Health Psychiatry, she analyzes and combines the research from the intersection of these three fields. She has appeared at many conferences, including the recent 2013 Postpartum Support International conference, the 2013 Lamaze International conference, is the Medical Director at Fearless Parent, blogs for Green Medical Information and has blogged for Postpartum Progress.

At her private practice in New York City, she offers a supervised lifestyle and food-based approach for women to manage perinatal mood disorders without psychotropic drugs.

This article is meant as an introduction to a different medical approach to women’s mental health. The functional medicine approach integrates the emergent research of the past three decades that suggests that a modern diet high in processed food, carbohydrates and sugar not only impacts the body with such chronic diseases as diabetes and heart disease, but also impacts brain health and contribute to the rising rates of mental illnesses such as depression and postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis and more severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Kathy Morelli (KM): Dr. Brogan, I was excited to discover your work via the Fearless Parent website, where you’re the Medical Director. You’re also active on the Green Medical Information website, where you regularly blog and present webinars. I admit, I was at first skeptical. However, after attending your webinar, and finding the information to be so very detailed and well-researched, I’m very intrigued. How did you become interested in your particular niche, Reproductive Psychiatry and Maternal Mental Health?

Dr. Kelly Brogan (KB): My post-residency fellowship training was in medical psychiatry, which is looking at how bodily problems like infection or liver disease can cause psychiatric symptoms. I specifically focused on reproductive psychiatry and the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders related to menses, pregnancy, and postpartum.

Despite my extensive training in helping women to navigate the risks and benefits of medication treatment during this vulnerable time period, I found that many women chose to discontinue medication.

Because of this and also because I wanted to help the women in my care optimize their health for anticipated or current pregnancy, I decided to investigate some common body-based drivers of psychiatric symptoms. I focused on these areas of the body: thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, food intolerances and gut infections, and sugar imbalances, rather than solely looking at the neurochemistry of the brain.

I also began to research what evidence there was to support mood-enhancing treatments that were also beneficial to the baby (given maternal deficiency) such as vitamin D, fatty acids, magnesium, and b vitamins.

Now I focus on inflammatory models of depression and anxiety and look at environmental exposures first and supporting the immune system and minimizing inflammation second. I haven’t started a patient on an antidepressant in some time.

KM: Dr. Brogan, as I understand it, you approach your work by focusing on the underlying human physiology of depression and anxiety, which is impacted by such factors as a sedentary lifestyle and a nutrient-poor diet which, in turn, causes inflammation. The inflammation in the body negatively impacts hormonal and neurotransmitter production and balance, which causes mindbody ailments, such as thyroid dysfunction and depression and anxiety. How would a woman coming to your office experience her visit with you differently than she would in a conventional psychiatric visit?

KB: The backbone of my clinical interventions is a sophisticated diagnostic assessment which includes a large battery of blood work, stool samples, salivary hormonal assessments, and urinary organic acids. In this way, I can personalize interventions rather than just empirically suppress symptoms. All of my patients require expert nutritional guidance, which I support them through, as well as personally tailored exercise and relaxation response interventions.

I’ve developed deep concern for the excessive, and what I believe to be irresponsible, use of medications to manage chronic disease. We have lost touch with our body’s native ability to heal itself and to correct, through elaborate checks and balances, any disturbances.

We’ve lost touch with this because we look to doctors when we should first be looking to our homes, our plates, and our minds to see how we can better facilitate that healing process, as you have done, Kathy. I believe that psychiatric medications, but also common medications prescribed for pain, acid reflux, and high cholesterol are wreaking havoc on the body’s ability to function optimally.

Here is an example of how I work with a simpler case: A lovely woman comes in to see me. She says she has debilitating melancholic depression, no energy and brain fog. I even note some instability when she walks. When I take her history, she tells me she was put on an acid blocking medication 2 years ago for her heartburn. I ask about her diet, which is high in sugar and fried foods, which is most likely causing her stomach discomfort. It’s well known clinically and in the research literature that long-term suppression of stomach acid blocks the absorption of the essential B12 vitamin.

Did you know B12 is one of the building blocks of life? A B12 deficiency is a silent condition that disrupts the myelination process, which leads to depression, confusion and eventually, to brain shrinkage. B12 protects your brain and nervous system, regulates rest and mood cycles and also keeps the immune system functioning properly. In fact, in persons over 65, B12 deficiency is linked to memory decline, brain shrinkage and a greater risk of age-related dementia, as the production of hydrochloric acid slows down with age.

In addition, because my patient is of childbearing age, it is very important to help her maintain her proper B12 levels, in order to help maintain her baby’s health. An infant born to a woman deficient in B12 is at serious risk for negative neurological symptoms, such as lethargy, developmental delays and delayed cognitive and motor development.

So, back to my patient. I’ll run a simple blood test to determine B12 levels to see if this lovely woman has either a suboptimal B12 level and/or a secondary marker of B12 deficiency. If so, I treat her with non-invasive B12, which can resolve all of her symptoms.

I do this because there are cases in the research literature describing patients receiving electroshock and antipsychotic medications before someone bothered to check their B12 levels and then successfully treat them to remission with this vitamin!

I work overtime to uncover what might be driving symptoms and driving inflammation. I don’t believe that the answer lies in a psychiatric medication, and I do believe that these medications can cause significant short and long-term side effects. Some have posited that, in addition to often containing synthetic preservatives, titanium, and gluten, medications such as Prozac contain fluoridated molecules which may impact the body as fluoride – a neuroendocrine toxin – does.

If they were seeing someone else, they might be started on an antidepressant after a 45 minute clinical contact. They can expect to take that antidepressant for the rest of their lives because few prescribers are experienced in medication discontinuation.

On Thursday, Kathy continues her interview with Dr. Brogan, sharing more information about the role of diet on the childbearing woman’s mental health and how the functional medicine approach can help to improve perinatal mental health and provide help to those who need it. – SM

References

Bergink V. et al. Prevalence of autoimmune thyroid dysfunction in postpartum psychosis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 2011;198:264-8. Epub February 22, 2011.

Black, M.M. (2008). Effects of B12 and folate deficiency on brain development in children. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, June (29), 126-131.

Brogan K. (2013). Putting theory into preliminary practice: Neuroinflammatory models of postpartum depression. OA Alternative Medicine, May 01;1(2):12.

Dickerson F, Stallings C, Origoni A, Vaughan C, Khushalani S, Alaedini A, Yolken R. Markers of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder. 2011 Feb;13(1):52-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5618.2011.00894.x.

Fasano, A. and colleagues at the Celiac Center, numerous medical research articles.

Jackson, J., Eaton, W., Cascella, N., Fasano, A., Kelly, D. (2012). Neurologic and Psychiatric Manifestations of Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity.Psychiatric Quarterly, 83(1), 91-102, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11126-011-9186-y

Li J, Harris RA, Cheung SW, Coarfa C, Jeong M, et al. (2012) Genomic Hypomethylation in the Human Germline Associates with Selective Structural Mutability in the Human Genome. PLoS Genet 8(5): e1002692. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002692

Niebuhr DW, Li Y, Cowan DN, Weber NS, Fisher JA, Ford GM, Yolken R. Association between casein bovine antibody and new onset schizophrenia among US military personnel. Schizophrenia Research, 2011 May;128(1-3):51-5. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2011.02.005. Epub 2011 Mar 4.

Oberland, TF, Weinberg, J, Papsdorf, M, Grunau, R, Misri, S, & Devlin, AM (2008). Prenatal exposure to maternal depression, neonatal methylation of human glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) and infant cortisol stress responses. Epigenetics, Mar-Apr,3(2), 97-106.

Severance EG, Dupont D, Dickerson FB, Stallings CR, Origoni AE, Krivogorsky B, Yang S, Haasnoot W, Yolken RH. Immune activation by casein dietary antigens in bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder. 2010 Dec;12(8):834-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-5618.2010.00879.x.

Perlmutter, D. (2011). Grain brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar – Your brain’s silent killers. New York: Little, Brown & Company.

Depression, Guest Posts, Infant Attachment, Maternal Mental Health, New Research, Perinatal Mood Disorders, Postpartum Depression , , , , , , , ,

Meet Dr. Richard Waldman, A Lamaze International 2013 Annual Conference Keynote Speaker

August 20th, 2013 by avatar

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Amber McCann, a keynote speaker for the 2013 Annual Lamaze International Conference. Today, I am delighted to share with you a recent interview with our second keynote speaker, Dr. Richard N. Waldman, an obstetrician and gynecologist at St. Joseph’s in Syracuse,  New York, and former past president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dr. Waldman will be speaking with Lamaze conference attendees in New Orleans, with a presentation titled: Improving Maternity Quality Through the Partnership Between Childbirth Educators and Healthcare Providers.  Here is an opportunity to learn more about Dr. Waldman in advance of his presentation in October.  Have you registered for the conference yet?  Join Lamaze in letting the good times roll for safe and healthy birth in New Orleans in October.

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Sharon Muza: Did you and your partner take childbirth classes when you were having children?  What do you recall of that experience?  Do you feel it prepared you well for what to expect as a partner of a birthing woman?

Dr. Richard Waldman: When I had my first baby in 1972 there were no childbirth classes in my large Northeastern city. My second child was delivered by a repeat cesarean section and again there were no childbirth classes that either of us attended.

My second wife, on the other hand, attended the first set of Lamaze classes ever given in Syracuse. She actually used her Lamaze training to advocate successfully for father attended births in each of the three Syracuse hospitals and her birth that year was the first father attended vaginal birth in our area.   In fact, her birth was celebrated in the Syracuse newspaper. She enjoyed the Lamaze classes so much that she later became a Lamaze certified instructor. 

SM: What is your relationship like with the local childbirth educators in your community? How do you decide where to refer your patients for childbirth classes?

RW: We had a great relationship with the local childbirth educators. CEAGS (Childbirth Education Association of Greater Syracuse) was a very important organization in our area and the childbirth educators were a constant source of information and debate. The debate was wonderful in those days. Our patients in the early days chose the education of their choice. They went to Bradley or Lamaze or the hospital. We started our own classes after the hospitals started to control the educational content. In the early 1980’s, my partner, a Certified Nurse Midwife and Lamaze Certified instructor started them in her own living room! Soon we moved it over to the office. Our practice style was so different from the community standard that we felt the only way that our families could get unbiased information was if we gave it to them. We started grandparent classes, sibling classes, and exercise classes. The siblings came to our office, made a sock doll for their little brother or sister, toured the hospitals and celebrated their baby’s birthday with a little birthday cake! We had great fun in those days!

SM: What do you feel are the key components of a great childbirth class?

RW: There are some obvious answers, but let’s not go there. Classes are a very important social opportunity for couples to bond, support each other and learn from one another. I have once observed some of “todays” mothers who want to learn by way of listening to a disc  instead of going to classes because of time constraints and then had no one to count on for baby information or postpartum support after they gave birth. Families grow close and sometimes start friendships early in pregnancy that can last a lifetime.

One of my wife’s favorite photos of our classes was the one of the postpartum class. Eight couples sitting around the room and every single baby in their father’s arms. Husbands becoming fathers before our eyes! Who could know?

SM: What questions are your patients asking about childbirth classes during their appointments with you and what are your responses to them?

RW: I see patients in early pregnancy and very few are asking about childbirth classes. I am told that interest is waning again.

SM: What do you tell patients about childbirth education options and choices?

RW: I spend most of my time trying to sell the concept of just trying natural birth before they immediately ask or are encouraged to have an epidural anesthetic. So many of our women have no idea how powerful they are, how natural it is to have a baby and that so many can do it without a significant amount of medication let alone an epidural. I encourage them to consider our birthing center (where continuous electronic monitoring and epidurals are not allowed). I long for the old days when we had more detailed discussions with women about their birthing ideas and birthing plans.

SM: What do you want childbirth educators to know about patients who are choosing to birth with OBs?

RW: Some obstetricians make excellent midwives! Some obstetricians like technology too much. Be informed about quality, safety and outcomes.

SM: How has your OB practice changed over the years?

RW: Do you have all day? We started off as a partnership between an obstetrician and a midwife. We are now a ten physician, 6 non- physician professional practice with over 100 employees. We started off as a beacon for natural childbirth and now despite trying our best to promote un-medicated births the vast majority of our patients request epidurals at their first prenatal visit.

SM:What are top three things that you wish women left childbirth class knowing?

RW: That they can trust their bodies, that they can trust their significant others and that they can trust their birth professionals.

SM: Tell us something about yourself that we would be surprised to learn about you?

RW: I have 12 grandchildren!

SM: Can you offer us a sneak peak about some key takeaway points of your upcoming keynote presentation?

 RW: My intent is to discuss childbirth practices as I found them in the 1970’s. Childbirth in the past was much worse than childbirth today. I would like to talk about where we are today and how we got there. Perhaps we can talk about how we can use childbirth education to reverse the trends that are not safe for mothers or babies.  Collaborative intelligence is the key to our future in childbirth.

About Richard Waldman, MD

Dr. Richard N. Waldman is a diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and is the past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a premier private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of women’s health care through continuing medical education, practice and research. Dr. Waldman is the president-elect of the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, NY, and a member of the Board of Trustees. Among other things, he established the first hospital-based midwifery practice in central New York. He served as the president of ACOG from 2010-2011. He has lectured extensively on pregnancy and childbirth across the United States and has also lectured internationally. He has published several articles in peer review journals and recently co-edited an issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America dedicated to collaborative practice.

ACOG, Childbirth Education, Continuing Education, Lamaze International 2013 Annual Conference, Lamaze News , , , , , , ,

Don’t Ever Give Up! An Interview with Katherine L Wisner, M.D., M.S. American Women In Science Award Recipient

April 30th, 2013 by avatar

“Childbirth educators are crucial front-line professionals in providing information to women about their risks for medical complications related to pregnancy and birth, and postpartum depression is a common problem.” – Dr. Katherine L Wisner

Katherine L. Wisner, M.D., M.S., has been involved in clinical work and research since the mid-1980’s. Prior to her medical training, she achieved a Master’s Degree in Nutrition. Dr. Wisner did a pediatrics internship, is board-certified in both adult and child psychiatry, and completed a 3-year postdoctoral training program (NIAAA-funded) in epidemiology. Her major interest area is women’s health across the life cycle with a particular focus on childbearing. In January 2011, Dr. Wisner was chosen as the recipient of AMWA’s Women in Science Award for the year 2011. Dr. Wisner is a Norman and Helen Asher Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Most recently, Dr. Wisner and colleagues (2013) published the largest American study to date (N = 10,000) investigating the value of screening for depression in postpartum period (4 to 6 weeks) using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)1

I know I speak for all in welcoming Dr. Wisner to Science and Sensibility.

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Walker Karraa: Congratulations to you and your colleagues on this most recent JAMA Psychiatry study. The findings have significant implications regarding the value of screening for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. What role do you think childbirth education has in the area of perinatal mental health?

Dr. Wisner: Childbirth educators are crucial front-line professionals in providing information to women about their risks for medical complications related to pregnancy and birth, and postpartum depression is a common problem.  

WK: Should childbirth educators and doulas be trained to screen for PMADs? 

Dr. Wisner: My answer would be yes, but the controversy in the field is about routine screening – that women with depression can be identified, but getting them to mental health treatment if it exists outside the obstetrical care setting is difficult.  So the counterpoint is– why screen if we don’t have on-site, accessible, acceptable services for mental health?  My opinion is that we ought to work toward this model of integrated care rather than decide not to screen!   I certainly think childbirth educators and doulas can increase education and awareness and are often the first professionals that women call for help, so that group of women who want to and can access care can get the help they need.

WK: How could childbirth education organizations use this study to inform their practices and curriculum?

Dr. Wisner:The study provides evidence that the prevalence of depression is high both during and after pregnancy and evidence that screening is effective in identifying women with major mood disorders.  Women with psychiatric episodes certainly can be assured that they are not alone, which is a common belief of pregnant women and new mothers.  

WK: Due to the prevalence of self-harm ideation in postpartum period found in your study and other studies supporting this alarming rate, and the fact that suicide is the second leading cause of maternal death, how might childbirth education organizations and professionals address this critical problem?

Dr. Wisner:Screening with the EPDS, which has the item 10 self-harm assessment questions, and sensitive exploration of self-harm and suicidal ideation is the primary approach to suicide prevention.  It has to be identified before intervention can occur.  

WK: A remarkable finding in your study was the rate of bipolar disorder among women who had screened positive (10 or higher) on the EPDS. Additionally, among those with unipolar depression, there was high comorbidity for anxiety disorders. What are your thoughts as to how childbirth education might begin to help childbearing women unpack and understand the symptoms of anxiety in prenatal education?

Dr. Wisner: In our study we found that women with depression usually had an anxiety disorder that pre-dated the depressive episodes—this observation is true for women who are not childbearing as well.  Having anxiety or depression as a child or adolescent increases the risk for peripartum episodes.  There are excellent pamphlets and websites about perinatal depression (www.womensmentalhealth.org; www.postpartum.net) which can be used to frame a brief discussion and give to the patient for reference.  This also gives the message that talking about mental health before and during childbearing is an important topic, just like surgical births, anesthesia etc.    

WK: The data you have contributed to science are unsurpassed, yet early in your career many questioned whether postpartum depression was real, and doubted if you would be able to pursue a research career in postpartum mood disorders.

Dr. Wisner: Indeed!

WK: How did you persevere–and particularly in a male-dominated field?

Dr. Wisner: I got angry that so few data were available to drive care for pregnant and postpartum women and never let go of the importance of obtaining that information.  That motivation was coupled with a real joy in taking care of perinatal women and their beautiful babies!  

WK: Do you think there is still an underlying doubt as to whether postpartum depression (or perinatal mood/anxiety disorders) is real?

Dr. Wisner: Not in academic medicine, and I have not heard anyone say this in about a decade (thankfully!). 

WK: What is your favorite part of the research? Data collection, analysis, or interpretation?

Dr. Wisner: Publishing findings that make a difference in women’s lives, and holding the babies. 

WK: What new trends do you see in research as hopeful signs of progress?  

Dr. Wisner:  The incredible number of young clinicians and investigators who are interested in perinatal mental health.  Also,  our field has been so accepting of interdisciplinary enrichment of research questions.  

WK: What advice would you share with women in research today? 

Dr. Wisner: Network with  your colleagues inside and outside your organization frequently, attend perinatal mental health meetings and don’t ever give up!  

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What are your thoughts regarding Dr. Wisner’s expert opinion?   How do you currently address postpartum depression and anxiety in your childbirth classes?  After reading this interview and taking at look at Dr. Wisner’s just published research, might you reconsider how you teach about this important topic or change your approach?  Let us know in the comments section below- Sharon Muza, Community Manager

More about Dr. Wisner

Dr. Wisner’s research has been NIMH funded since she completed her post-doctoral training in 1988. She served on NIMH grant review sections continuously from 1994 to the present. Dr. Wisner completed was a founding member of the NIMH Data Safety and Monitoring Board, and is only the second American to be elected President of the Marce International Society for the study of Childbearing Related Disorders.

Her major interest area is women’s health across the life cycle with a particular focus on childbearing. She is a pioneer in the development of strategies to distinguish the effects (during pregnancy) of mental illness from medications used to treat it (Wisner et al,JAMA 282:1264-1269, 1999; MHR01-60335, Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy).

In recognition of her work, she was a participant in activities related to the FDA Committee to Revise Drug Labeling in Pregnancy and Lactation, a committee member for the National Children’s Study (Stress in Pregnancy), a consultant to the CDC Safe Motherhood Initiative and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Report Perinatal Depression: Prevalence, Screening Accuracy and Screening Outcomes.

Dr. Wisner was elected to membership in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2005. She received the Dr. Robert L. Thompson Award for Community Service from Healthy Start, Inc., of Pittsburgh in 2006 and the Pennsylvania Perinatal Partnership Service Award in 2007 from the State of Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Wisner was the first American psychiatrist to collect serum from mothers and their breastfed infants for antidepressant quantitation as a technique to monitor possible infant toxicity. She published the only two placebo-controlled randomized drug trials for the prevention of recurrent postpartum depression and showed that a serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor was efficacious.

References 

1.Wisner, K.L., Sit, D., McShea, M. C., Rizzo, D.M., Zoretich, R.A., Hughes, C.L., Eng, H.F., Luther, J.F., Wisneiweski, S. R., Costantino, M.L., Confer, A.L., Moses-Kolko, E.L., Famy, C. S., & Hanusa, B.H. (2013). Onset timing, thoughts of self-harm, and diagnoses in postpartum women with screen-positive depression findings. JAMA Psychiatry, Published online March 13, 2013. Doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.87

 

Childbirth Education, Depression, Evidence Based Medicine, Guest Posts, Maternal Mental Health, New Research, Perinatal Mood Disorders, Postpartum Depression, PTSD, Research , , , , , , , , ,

Mother’s Mental Health: Professional Perspectives and Childbirth Education Part I

December 6th, 2012 by avatar

By Walker Karraa

Regular contributor Walker Karraa has written an excellent three part series on Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) and what the childbirth educator or birth professional can do to help women get the help they may need when dealing with mental illness during the prenatal and postpartum period.  Walker interviews experts in the field who all offer concrete steps, activities and resources so that educators and others can do to be more prepared to discuss this important subject with students and clients.  Recent press coverage of a British mother suffering from severe PMAD has made headlines and the topic is one that belongs in whatever childbirth class a woman chooses to take. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager.

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Safety regarding the use of a specific type of antidepressant medication, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI’s), is an important topic as maternal health care providers address the prevalence and negative effects of depression and other mood disorders in pregnancy and postpartum. Recently, the study The risks of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use in infertile women: a review of the impact on fertility, pregnancy, neonatal health and beyond (Domar, Moragianni, Ryley & Urato, 2012) has garnered tremendous attention from media, researchers and childbirth professionals. I had the opportunity to ask the study’s authors and other experts about the dangers of discontinuation in a piece for Giving Birth With Confidence. From that article, we hear the overwhelming agreement; including two of the study’s authors, that sudden discontinuation of SSRI antidepressant medications in pregnancy is not advisable.

http://flic.kr/p/7oE1vk

A week later, I learned about the tragic case of Felicia Boots, a 35 year old woman in the United Kingdom who, fearing she was harming her baby by taking SSRI’s and breastfeeding, suddenly stopped. Shortly after, she took the lives of her 14-month old and 10 week old children. A special editorial published by The Lancet (November 10, 2012), noted: “She had stopped her prescribed antidepressants because she was convinced that the drugs would harm her baby through her breastmilk and feared that her children would be taken away from her”(p. 1621). The authors went on to state: “A society in which women know that they will receive empathy, understanding, and help might be one in which women seek advice more readily, and accept appropriate treatments” (Lancet, 2012, p. 1621).

This is a vision shared by the guiding principles of maternity care–as childbirth professionals have always worked for a society where women know they will be cared for, understood, and have access to appropriate interventions. Unfortunately, we have failed to include mental health. How might the childbirth education community better address these issues? Asking experts is a place to start. What is uniquely helpful here is that the same questions were given to all participants—shedding light on one commonality: education.

Today’s article features Julia Frank, MD. Dr. Frank is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, where she has been the Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry since 2000. A graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine and of the residency program in psychiatry at Yale, Dr. Frank is also the founder of `Five Trimesters Clinic, a service for women with mental health needs relating to pregnancy and childbirth. In this installment, Dr. Frank addresses how childbirth educators might address these complex issues.

WK: How might childbirth professionals integrate an understanding of postpartum psychosis (PP) and other perinatal mood disorders in classes? 

Dr. Frank: It is important to stress that the condition is rare but serious and treatment is generally quickly successful. Women with a family history of bipolar disorder or of postpartum psychosis in relatives should be told that they are at somewhat increased risk. Giving information in writing to them and their partners about what to look out for (especially profound sleeplessness and confusion) in the first couple of weeks postpartum might also be helpful.

WK: The recent Lancet editorial regarding the Felicia Boots tragedy stated: “Postnatal depression and, more broadly, perinatal mental health disorders, are among the least discussed, and most stigmatizing, mental health illnesses today” (p. 1621).   

How would you describe the stigma of perinatal mental health disorders and its impact?

Dr. Frank: I think the widespread publicity given to the sensational cases with terrible outcomes makes it hard for women to admit to any difficulty postpartum. The general public tends to conflate postpartum depression with psychosis. I have had women say to me “I don’t think I’m depressed, because I don’t want to hurt my baby”. We also overemphasize depression and neglect anxiety. I am not sure that is a factor of stigma, but it certainly contributes to under diagnosis.

http://flic.kr/p/PYHj7

Obstetricians and pediatricians may not recognize or discuss a postpartum psychiatric disorder for fear of offending the affected mother. Other aspects of stigma that apply to professionals are the belief that psychiatric disorders are overwhelmingly time consuming to address, that women who have them lack insight, that treatment is generally no better than passage of time.

WK: What do you see as the most significant barriers to treatment for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD)? 

Dr. Frank: In the US, the disconnection between mental health care and medical care, written into our insurance systems, is a major barrier. Also, the way pediatricians are trained to deal only with the child, and not to assume any responsibility for the health of the mother, keeps them from screening appropriately. Obstetricians also maintain an overly narrow focus on the woman’s organs, and they tend to have very little contact with mothers after delivery, nor do most of them see mental health as within their sphere of interest or expertise. Fears of liability from the effects on the fetus of treating the mother are another barrier, especially in the US, where medical injury to an infant can bring astronomically high damage awards. This is a particular barrier to some psychiatrists being willing to initiate or maintain treatment related to pregnancy.

WK: How would you respond to media-based concerns regarding the safety of SSRI medication in pregnancy? 

Dr. Frank: There is no pregnancy without risk, and the risks of not treating a serious psychiatric disorder are as important to consider as the risks associated with treatment.  When we bypass maternal suffering out of concern for the safety of a fetus, we are making a misguided moral judgment that privileges “innocent” life over life as lived. The risks of these drugs are important and should be weighed carefully, but it has taken literally decades and the review of the experience of tens of thousands of women to identify the risks. Absolute and percentage risks remain acceptable, when weighed against the known benefits of taking medication when necessary. Over fifty percent of pregnant women take something during pregnancy, and treating a mood disorder is as important as treating a UTI, or diabetes, or heartburn or any of the conditions that are typically addressed.

WK: What are your thoughts regarding discontinuation of medication in pregnancy? 

Dr. Frank: Depends on the medication, the woman’s history, and the illness being treated. Certainly, discontinuing a medication should not be an automatic response to a woman becoming pregnant.

WK: What suggestions do you have regarding how childbirth organizations can encompass perinatal mental health into training curriculum and practice? 

Dr. Frank: Widespread education in the use of efficient screening methods, particularly the PHQ 9 or the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale would be a first step.  Educators  also need to develop routines for referring women to mental health services—the postpartum depression self-help  community , embodied in organizations like Postpartum Support International, is pretty well organized and can help bridge the gap between screening and referral . Ideally, these organizations could reach out to women postpartum, rather than waiting for them to come in. Routine phone calls two and four weeks after delivery, providing encouragement for everyone while also identifying and facilitating referrals for women in difficulty, might be quite effective in both preventing and intervening in postpartum mood problems. This is an area that merits systematic study. Finally, organizations that include mothers themselves might consider urging women who have been identified and treated to write thank you notes to the health care providers who contributed to them getting help. I think this would counter the fears that providers have about giving and offense and doing harm.

Conclusion

Dr. Frank contributes to the broadening conversation regarding how childbirth educators might better address perinatal mental health. How do her suggestions resonate with your practice? In what ways could you use her information?  Will you consider adding this information to your classes and new mother contact? And how could your certifying or professional organization become a source of support and education?

The second post in this series, scheduled for Thursday, features Nancy Byatt, D.O., MBA–Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics & Gynecology;  Psychiatrist, Psychosomatic Medicine and Women’s Mental Health UMass Medical School/UMass Memorial Medical Center.

References

Domar, A. D., Moragianni, V. A., Ryley, D.A., & Urato, A.C. (2012). The risks of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use in infertile women: a review of the impact on fertility, pregnancy, neonatal health and beyond. Human Reproduction, Vol.0(0) pp. 1–12 doi:10.1093/humrep/des383

Bringing postnatal depression out of the shadows The Lancet – 10 November 2012 (Vol. 380, Issue 9854, Page 1621 ) doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61929-1

Other Resources: 

Department of Health and Human Services: Depression During and After Pregnancy: A Resource for Women, Their Families, & Friends

The Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS), (866) 626-6847

 

 

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Depression, Giving Birth with Confidence, Guest Posts, Infant Attachment, Maternal Mental Health, Maternity Care, News about Pregnancy, Perinatal Mood Disorders, Postpartum Depression, Prenatal Illness, Research , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It Takes a Professional Village! A Study Looks At Collaborative Interdisciplinary Maternity Care Programs on Perinatal Outcomes

September 19th, 2012 by avatar

The  Canadian Medical Association Journal, published in their September 12, 2012 issue a very interesting study examining how a team approach to maternity care might improve maternal and neonat aloutcomes.  The study, Effect of a collaborative interdisciplinary maternity care program on perinatal outcomes  is reviewed here.

The Challenge

Photo Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jstownsley/28337593/

The number of physicians in Canada who provide obstetric care has declined in past years for reasons that include increasing physician retirement, closure of rural hospitals, liability concerns, dissatisfaction with the lifestyle and a difficulty in accessing maternity care in a variety of settings.  While registered midwife attended births may be on the rise, midwives in Canada attend less than 10% of all births nationwide.   At the same time as the number of doctors willing or able to attend births decline, cesarean rates are on the rise,  causing pressure on the maternity care system, including longer hospital stays both intrapartum and postpartum, which brings with it the associated costs and resources needed to accommodate this increase.

The diversity of the population having babies in many provinces is increasing, presenting additional challenges in meeting the non-French/English speaking population, who are more at risk for increased obstetrical interventions and are less likely to breastfeed.

The Study

In response to these challenges, the South Community Birth Program was established to provide care from a consortium of providers, including family practice physicians, community health nurses, doulas, midwives and others, who would work together to serve the multiethnic, low income communities that may be most at risk for interventions and surgery.

The retrospective cohort study examined outcomes between two matched groups of healthy women receiving maternity care in an ethically diverse region of South Vancouver, BC, Canada that has upwards of 45% immigrant families, 18% of them arriving in Canada in the past 5 years.  One group participated in the South Community Birth Program and the other received standard care in community based practices.

The South Community Birth Program offers maternity care in a team-based shared-care model, with the family practice doctors, midwives, nurses and doulas working together .  Women could be referred to the program by the health care provider or self refer.  After a few initial standard obstetrical appointments with a family practice doctor or midwife occur to determine medical history, physical examination, genetic history, necessary labs and other prenatal testing, the women and their partners are invited to join group prenatal care, based on the Centering Pregnancy Model.  Approximately 20% of the first time mothers choose to remain in the traditional obstetric care model.  10-12  families are grouped by their expected due date, and meet for 10 scheduled sessions, facilitated by either a family physician or midwife and a community nurse.  Each session has a carefully designed curriculum that covers nutrition, exercise, labor, birth and newborn care, among other topics.  Monthly meetings to discuss individual situations and access to comprehensive electronic medical records enhanced the collaboration between the team. Trained doulas, who speak 25 different languages, also meet with the family once prenatally and provide one on one continuous labor support during labor and birth. The admitting midwife or physician remains in the hospital during the patient’s labor and attends the birth.

After a hospital stay of 24-48 hours, the family receives a home visit from a family practice physician or midwife the day after discharge. Clinic breastfeeding and postpartum support is provided by a Master’s level clinical nurse specialist who is also a board certified lactation consultant.  At six weeks, the mother is discharged back to her physician, and a weekly drop in clinic is offered through 6 months postpartum.

The outcomes of the women in the South Community Birth Program were compared to women who received standard care from their midwives or family practice physicians.  Similar cohorts were established of women carrying a single baby of like ages, parity, and geographic region, and all the mothers were considered low risk and of normal body mass index.

The primary outcome measured was the proportion of women who underwent cesarean delivery.  The secondary outcomes measured were obstetrical interventions and maternal outcomes (method of fetal assessment during labor, use of analgesia during labor, augmentation or induction of labor, length of labor, perineal tramau, blood transfusion and length of stay) and neonatal outcomes (stillbirth, death before discharge, Apgar score less than 7, preterm delivery, small or large for gestational age, length of hospital stay, readmission, admission to neonatal intensive care unit for more than 24 hours and method of feeding at discharge).

Results

There was more incidence of diabetes and previous cesareans in the comparison group but the level of alcohol and substance use was the same in both groups.  Midwives delivered 41.9% of the babies in the birth program and 7.4% of babies in the comparison group.

When the rate of cesarean delivery was examined for both nullips and multips, the birth group women were at significantly reduced risk of cesarean delivery and were not at increased risk of assisted vaginal delivery with forceps or vacuum.

Interestingly, the birth program women who received care from an obstetrician were significantly more likely to have a cesarean than those receiving in the standard program who also received care from an obstetrician.  More women in the birth program with a prior cesarean delivery planned a vaginal birth in this pregnancy, though the proportion of successful vaginal births after cesareans dd not differ between the two groups.

The women in the community birth program experienced more intermittent auscultation vs electronic fetal monitoring and were more likely to use nitrous oxide and oxygen alone for pain relief and less likely to use epidural analgesia (Table 3).  Though indications for inductions did not differ, the birth program women were less likely to be induced.  More third degree perineal tears were observed in the birth program group but less episiotomies were performed.  Hospital stays were shorter for both mothers and newborns in the community program.

When you look at the newborns in the birth program, they were at marginally increased risk of being large for gestational age and were readmitted to the hospital in the first 28 days after birth at a higher rate, the majority of readmissions in the community and standard care group were due to jaundice. Exclusive breastfeeding in the birth program group was higher than in the standard group.

Discussion

The mothers and the babies in the community birth program were offered collaborative, multidisciplinary, community based care and this resulted in a lower cesarean rate, shorter hospital stays, experienced less interventions and they left the hospital more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding. Many of the outcomes observed in this study, especially for the families participating in the South Birth Community Program are in line with Lamaze International’s Healthy Birth Practices.  There are many questions that can be raised, and some of them are are discussed by the authors.

Was it the collaborative care from an interdisciplinary team result in better outcomes?  Was there a self-selection by the women themselves for the low intervention route that resulted in the observed differences?  Are the care providers themselves who are more likely to support normal birth self-selecting to work in the community birth program? Did the fact that the geographic area of the study had been underserved by maternity providers before the study play a role in the outcomes? Did the emotional and social support provided by the prenatal and postpartum group meetings facilitate a more informed or engaged group of families?

I also wonder how childbirth educators, added to such a model program, might also offer opportunity to reduce interventions and improve outcomes  Could childbirth educators in your community partner with other maternity care providers to work collaboratively to meet the perinatal needs of expectant families?  Would bringing health care providers interested in supporting physiologic birth in to share their knowledge in YOUR classrooms help to create an environment where families felt supported by an entire skilled team of people helping them to achieve better outcomes.

Would this model be financially and logistically replicable in other underserved communities and help to alleviate some of the concerns of a reduction in obstetrical providers and increased cesareans and interventions without improved maternal and newborn outcomes? And how can you, the childbirth educator, play a role?

References

Azad MB, Korzyrkyj AL. Perinatal programming of asthma: the role of the gut microbiota. Clin Dev Immunol 2012 Nov. 3 [Epub ahead of print].

Canadian Association of Midwives. Annual report 2011. Montréal (QC): The Association; 2011. Available: www .canadianmidwives.org /data/document /agm %202011 %20inal .pdf

Farine D, Gagnon R; Maternal Fetal Medicine Committee of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Are we facing a crisis in maternal fetal medicine in Canada? J Obstet Gynaecol Can 2008;30:598-9.

Getahun D, Oyelese Y, Hamisu M, et al. Previous cesarean delivery and risks of placenta previa and placental abruption.Obstet Gynecol 2006;107:771-8.

Giving birth in Canada: the costs. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Institute of Health Information; 2006.

Godwin M, Hodgetts G, Seguin R, et al. The Ontario Family Medicine Residents Cohort Study: factors affecting residents’ decisions to practise obstetrics. CMAJ 2002;166:179-84.

Hannah ME. Planned elective cesarean section: A reasonable choice for some women? CMAJ 2004;170:813-4.

Harris, S., Janssen, P., Saxell, L., Carty, E., MacRae, G., & Petersen, K. (2012). Effect of a collaborative interdisciplinary maternity care program on perinatal outcomes. Canadian Medical Association Journal, doi: DOI:10.1503 /cmaj.111753

Ontario Maternity Care Expert Panel. Maternity care in Ontario 2006: emerging crisis, emerging solutions: Ottawa (ON): Ontario Women’s Health Council, Ministry of Health and LongTerm Care; 2006.

Reid AJ, Carroll JC. Choosing to practise obstetrics. What factors influence family practice residents? Can Fam Physician 1991; 37:1859-67.

Thavagnanam S, Fleming J, Bromley A, et al. A meta-analysis of the association between cesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy 2008;38:629-33.

 

 

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