Perinatal Pro Weekly Blog

February 13, 2009
ABC’s Private (Mal) Practice fails to present the facts in botched opportunity to raise PPD Awareness


   Caving to the sensationalism that fuels stigma (and perhaps ratings) rather than supports understanding, last night’s ABC’s Private Practice episode presented an outrageous and unsympathetic caricature of a woman suffering from postpartum depression… or was it postpartum psychosis? The show’s producers apparently passed on any professional consultation, so the new mother presented an unlikely combination of severe symptoms which were poorly interpreted and never professionally assessed. The result? A botched opportunity to raise awareness while fanning the flames of fear that keep women and families suffering in silence.

  The image of the suffering mother  – with acupuncture needles sticking out of her head – experiencing a psychotic episode was more akin to Friday the 13th than the public awareness campaign promised by ABC. Postpartum psychosis is extremely rare with incidence less then 2% and was not accurately presented in this three ring circus. The implication that postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are interchangeable labels is incredibly irresponsible.

  But the show’s mothers weren’t the only target of ignorance and blatant indifference to client care.  The show managed to insult every health care professional associated with the mother’s illness. The therapist came off as a clueless, self absorbed nut case who failed to advocate for her client, the acupuncturist acknowledged that his client was having a psychotic episode (yet left her alone in a room), and the two docs charged with the care of the other pregnant mother were engaged in their own emotional and professional battle which failed to place the welfare of their client first.

  The Public Service Announcement that was supposed to air immediately following the show  – to inform women and families where they might find the CORRECT information and help for such disorders –  went missing. Therefore the thousands of new or pregnant mothers who might have watched the show (let’s pray they went to bed early instead) were not given any resources unless they went to the website itself. And there, further insult awaited.

The Private Practice Homepage is now offering a poll. You can answer YES or NO only to the question:

“Should a woman undergoing psychiatric treatment who nearly drowned her baby be allowed to see it?” 

It can be imagined that this additional witchhunt will generate a tsunami of negative responses furthering the misunderstanding of perinatal mood disorders and associated stigma.

The show had approached Postpartum Support International for consultation on the Public Service Announcement – perhaps attempting to legitimize their story line by association with the world’s number one resource for PPD – but PSI was not shown the episode prior to airing.  Hopefully, those set on their teeth by this horror show may have googled postpartum depression and found PSI’s website where they can find the information and help they need to navigate pregnancy related mood disorders.
Or let’s hope they found Katherine Stone’s Postpartum Progress Blog – an award winning website authored by an amazing woman who devotes herself to presenting the FACTS about these illnesses and encouraging women to seek treatment and each other.  On Katherine’s website you can find listings of the U.S.’s most stellar PPD facilities and providers where best practices and renowned professionals successfully treat the mothers who come to them with appropriate care and respect.  

Or perhaps googling PPD brought them to a beautifully authored and compelling PSA on Postpartum Depression presented by CBS CARES.  This Public Service Announcement was developed in conjunction with a sensitive PPD storyline on their award winning series Cold Case last year. It has been seen by thousands, probably millions of people across the country who were positively moved by its prosocial message of outreach and hope.

Finally dear pregnant, new moms, or those contemplating pregnancy – If you watched that show and wondered.. Could this be me?  The answer is NO!! Those on the forefront of PPD research, education and treatment are among the most devoted and passionate practitioners you can find (see list above). If you aren’t feeling like yourself and new motherhood isn’t what you expected or you want to know the FACTS about PPD – get those questions answered now by experienced specialists who will guide you to the right treatment – if needed.
Perhaps we can take the perspective that any media spotlight focused on these disorders might heighten awareness and get people talking. But what a missed opportunity for a major network to offer quality primetime educational outreach to help prevent or end the suffering of the 800,000 women who will experience a perinatal mood disorder this year.


To calm down listen to this beautiful song,
composed by Wade Bowen, about his wife’s experience with postpartum depression.
Here’s the link to it on U-Tube


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