New coalition addresses postpartum depression

Guest Column

Having a new baby—the happiest time in a woman’s life.

Not always.

One in five women will experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy or the first year of her baby’s life, turning joy into sadness, loneliness, anger or regret.

In fact, these illnesses—collectively known as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs)—are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth. Left untreated, PMADs can have a long-term negative impact on mother, baby, family and society.

To address PMADs on the Peninsula, Postpartum Support Virginia has launched the Peninsula Maternal Mental Health Coalition to bring together community stakeholders who interact with childbearing women. Its role is to educate women about PMADs and to put resources in place to help women affected by these illnesses. According to Adrienne Griffen, executive director of Postpartum Support Virginia, “Postpartum depression and related perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are very common; they are both temporary and treatable.”

Treatment for PMADs includes increased self-care (sufficient sleep, nutrition, exercise and time off to renew and recharge), social support, talk therapy and medication when necessary. The good news is that virtually all women who seek treatment recover from PMADs.

Postpartum Support Virginia is a nonprofit organization whose goal is that all childbearing women in Virginia are educated about PMADs and have access to help. Presently, Postpartum Virginia has 23 support groups throughout Virginia. Adding support groups in Hampton and Newport News will be part of the Peninsula Maternal Mental Health Coalition’s work in 2019. Griffen, who suffered postpartum anxiety after one of her children was born, started Postpartum Support Virginia in 2009 to ensure that childbearing women, and the healthcare providers who care for them, are educated about PMADs and have access to care.

Participants in the Peninsula Maternal Mental Health Coalition include healthcare providers such as obstetricians and pediatricians; hospital nursing staff from all three hospitals on the Peninsula; mental health providers; Early Impact Virginia programs such as Resource Mothers and Parents as Teachers; and birth and postpartum professionals including nurses, doulas, lactation consultants and childbirth educators.

The goal of the Coalition is that all these providers will be familiar with PMADs, know how to discuss them with childbearing women and know how to help women recover from these illnesses. The Coalition meets monthly for professional development and networking. For more information about the Coalition, contact Olivia Price at

I am so grateful to Postpartum Support Virginia for providing this opportunity to bring together members of the community to address the important topic of maternal mental health.

Sister David Ann Niski
About Sister David Ann Niski 6 Articles
Sister David Ann Niski is executive director of the Bernadine Franciscan Sisters Foundation. A strong advocate and supporter of the Virginia Peninsula not-for-profit agencies, she can be reached at 757-886-6025 or by e-mail at

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