Published on September 22, 2015

Local screening of documentary to shed light on maternal mental health

By Melissa Hoffman, RN, MMH, Lawrence Memorial Hospital

A documentary that looks at the state of maternal mental health in our country will be shown for free at the Lawrence Arts Center this weekend.

The documentary "Dark Side of the Full Moon," will be screened from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St.

Melissa Hoffman, RN, MMH

Sponsored locally by Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Lawrence OB-GYN Specialists, Unitarian Fellowship of Lawrence and Postpartum Support International, the documentary takes an honest look at the state of maternal mental health in the United States. A discussion and call to action will follow the screening.

Mood disorders are the number one complication of childbearing. One in seven women will experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder in pregnancy or in the year following birth.

Resources and support

Lawrence Memorial Hospital offers a free support group. For more information about the Build Your Village Perinatal Mood Support Group, visit the Lawrence Memorial Hospital website at

Visit the Postpartum Support International website at

Watch the documentary trailer:

Men also can be affected and experience paternal postpartum depression. Ten percent of fathers are at risk for developing this, and that risk goes up when his partner is also suffering from a mood complication.

The symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are the same symptoms normally associated with depression and anxiety. However, we must consider the impact this has on negative feelings about the pregnancy or baby, parenting roles and the ability to perform parenting responsibilities. When untreated, the effects of perinatal mood disorders can have a lasting impact on the health of the whole family.

Perinatal mood disorders do not only manifest as depression, but also include anxiety, inability to cope, obsessive or scary thoughts, insomnia and difficulty bonding. In the most severe and rare cases, psychosis, which involves hallucinations, delusions and a break from reality, can occur.

In the worst-case scenarios of depression, anxiety and psychosis, tragedies can occur, but thankfully women who receive proper support, diagnosis and treatment almost always recover completely.

It is hard to recognize perinatal depression or anxiety for many reasons. A new mother might not recognize depression or anxiety because she is tired, overwhelmed, or simply adjusting to life with a baby. Often women blame themselves for not being able to handle things instead of realizing it is a medical condition and not a sign of failure. Moms and families might feel ashamed or embarrassed and fear admitting to negative feelings at a time when society implies we should be feeling nothing but joy. Lastly, every woman will have a unique experience and unique symptoms.

There is no one cause for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Women who develop a mood disorder experience symptoms that are caused by a combination of psychological, social and biological stressors. Hormonal fluctuations cause reactions in women who are more sensitive to these changes.

Risk factors include a personal or family history of mood or anxiety disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia; sensitivity to natural or synthetic hormones; marital or relationship stress; and lack of support.

Admitting there is a problem is the most important step a woman can take for herself and her family. Reaching out to a supportive, nonjudgmental person is a great first step. Talking to your care provider is also a good place to start. Developing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder is not your fault, and with help you will be well.

Melissa Hoffman, RN, MMH, is Education Specialist for Prenatal and Parenting Programs at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. Hoffman also serves as the Midwest Regional Coordinator for Postpartum Support International. She is a certified Maternal Mental Health Provider.

Local screening of documentary to shed light on maternal mental health

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