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POEM: Fearful mothers finding help

Posted Aug 17 2009 11:02pm

News out of Columbus:

The new leader of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has made it his mission to boost recognition of postpartum depression by both doctors and new mothers.

"I wanted to bring it out of the closet for them, to let them know it's not them, it's a physical thing, and we can do a lot about it," said Dr. Gerald Joseph Jr., who works at the Ochsner Health Center in Covington, La. He took over as president of the influential doctors group in May.

He also wants his group to better study the disorder, including finding ways to help doctors accurately determine who is suffering and what type of help might be most beneficial to a particular woman.

This comes as welcome news to Tonya Fulwider, a leader in bringing recognition and support to Columbus-area mothers through the nonprofit group POEM (Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms ). She and two other women began their effort to create POEM in 2004.

The members of POEM want to help stop the damage that postpartum does to the mother, her child and her family. The group focuses on mom-to-mom support, Fulwider said.

The group also guides women to medical and mental-health professionals. And Fulwider works to educate doctors, nurses and others most likely to help women recognize what they're going through.

Heidi Sommer McAlister, a Columbus psychotherapist who specializes in postpartum depression, said recognition has increased in recent years, but misconceptions persist.

"When the public hears postpartum depression, they generally think of a psychotic mom that is going to hurt her baby. In eight years of therapeutic work, I've never had a case like that."

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