Like many other members of the PPD advocacy community, I watched Private Practice tonight. It’s a show I don’t usually watch but tuned in because the storyline had to do with Postpartum Depression. It said so right in the description: Cooper, Violet and Pete treat a woman with postpartum depression. But she didn’t have postpartum depression which affects up to 20% of new moms.
A jump was quickly made to postpartum psychosis and mom was sedated and put on meds that were not compatible with breastfeeding (even though she WAS indeed nursing). There was also no clear cut consent shown to this course of treatment.
Then Violet didn’t want to give the baby back to the mother for fear that THEY would be the ones thought of as “what were you thinking!?” We work SO hard to fight against the myth that a mother’s baby will be taken from her if she seeks help. I can’t help but think about how many new moms saw this show and may possibly avoid seeking help because of this portrayal.
There were a few things they did get right. Cooper pointed out how rare psychosis is and stated that it’s NOT normal. And he’s right – postpartum psychosis affects 1 to 2 moms per 1000 births so no, it’s NOT normal.
And the portrayal of the mom with psychosis? Her behaviors and irrational beliefs? The fast talking and incoherent babbling? Totally on point. In fact, the one scene where she admits to how she’s really feeling got me right there. All of the sudden I was back in bed, curled in the fetal position waiting for my husband to get home. My breath caught and my eyes watered up. I’m nearly three years past that point but man it came rushing back in a heartbeat. It’s SO hard to forget that fall yet at the same time it has become a very empowering memory for me because I know how far I have journeyed since then.
The PSA was missing from the end of the show as well. If you go to ABC’s website and click on Private Practice then go the The Ex-Life (I think that was the title of tonight’s episode), the PSA is the first of the scenes you can select to watch. Hopefully your computer works their site better than mine does – I had two video audios running at once which made it really hard to hear what Amy Brennan (Violet) had to say (and thanks to Katherine Stone over @ Postpartum Progress for working with ABC on the PSA! Good job!)
Overall I have to give them credit for trying. They got a few things right. It could have been better but hey, it is a fictional drama, right? And just as here, not everything is perfect there. I suppose we’ll just have to be happy that they even bothered to broach the topic and consulted PSI in the process, right? Right?