Boulder’s Listen To Your Mother Show is grateful for our local sponsor, Kate Kripke, LCSW: The Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder, who has come back for the second year in a row to support our show.
The goal of the Kate Kripke, LCSW: The Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder is to encourage expectant, new, and “experienced” mothers to maintain health and balance at a time when these transitions are at an all time high. Some women will find their postpartum adjustment to be mildly challenging while others (about 20%) will suffer from a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder like PPD. Through supportive psychotherapy and the development of practical strategies for physical, social, and emotional health, much of the emotional vulnerability that women face can be minimized.
Kate provides coaching and/or psychotherapy support for women and families during preconception, pregnancy, and new parenthood. Each person’s definition of “wellness” is different, but every woman deserves to feel her best.
In addition to providing services for women experiencing postpartum mood disorders, the Postpartum Wellness Center also has expertise in areas including:
- Prenatal and postpartum health
- Treatment and support around Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders including PPD
- Life-work balance
- Anxiety management
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction
- Parenting satisfaction
- Assessment and support around healthy bonding and attachment
- Pregnancy and neonatal loss support
- High risk pregnancy support
- Support around fertility challenges
- Maternal identity development
- Parent coaching and play therapy
We had a chance to catch up with Kate and ask her a few questions about her practice.
LTYM: How did you get into the postpartum wellness practice area?
KK: My background is in children and adolescents. When I was working with at-risk adolescents in San Fransisco, I started incorporating the families, particularly the moms, into the therapy sessions. I discovered that when the moms were more supported, I started to see a positive shift in the kids. Then I wondered, where would these at risk kids be if their moms had been supported better from the get-go? Maternal depression is actually one of the leading factors [linked to] childrens’ depression. I sought out training in perinatal mental health and opened a practice in San Fransisco working with moms. I had my daughter, who is now 7, and experienced signficant postpartum anxiety. Like many in the mental health field, I took way too long to get help. When she was 1.5 years old, we moved to Boulder and I set up a practice here.
LTYM: What are signs and symptoms of postpartum depression that every new mom, partner, OB and midwife should be looking out for?
KK: The most common sign is actually anxiety, and this is what distinguishes postpartum depression from general adult depression. While it is natural for all moms to experience some anxiety, the anxiety I am referring to does not respond to reassurance. For example, this anxiety keeps the mom awake at night, even when the baby is sleeping soundly. This anxiety may interfere not only with sleep, but also with appetite, or it will interfere with the mom engaging in things she normally enjoys, like exercise or seeing friends.
Other signs include a lost of interest in things she normally enjoys, having a hard time making decisions, irritability that is constant (some irritability is normal for a new mom), and a general lack of energy or having difficulty getting out of bed.
A common complaint of women with postpartum depression is “I just don’t feel like myself” and not because of her shifting role, but rather “I don’t recognize my reaction to things” – she more anxious or irritable than she would normally be.
Some women with postpartum depression have really scary, intrusive thoughts about harming the baby.
LTYM:What are some things new moms can do to make the transition easier?
KK: When we’re pregnant, we spend all this time taking care of ourselves, then suddenly everything is all about the baby. You know that safety warning when you’re flying- “Put your oxygen mask on first”- this is really important. Taking care of our own health and wellness is important to our babies’ health and wellness.
Ask yourself what three things are important to your health and well-being. What three things do you know you need in order to feel emotionally well (ie healthy food, sleep, exercise, alone time, time with friends)? Can you make sure you are getting those things on a regular basis?
We have this cultural expectation that women need to do everything themselves, but a new mother really needs mothering. A postpartum doula can be so helpful. Moms need healthy food, water, sleep, exercise, etc. in order to stay healthy.
LTYM: What are some common myths about postpartum depression/anxiety?
KK: The biggest myth is that women who struggle with postpartum depression/anxiety want to kill their babies. This is NOT TRUE. What makes media headlines is typically postpartum psychosis, which is very different than postpartum depression.
Another myth is that women who struggle with postpartum depression/anxiety are not good mothers. Of course we want to make sure the attachment between mom and baby is good- but all of my clientele are great moms. This stereotype keeps moms from reaching out for help.
A third myth is the belief/stigma that there aren’t any safe treatments for postpartum depression. There are many non-medical treatments that are effective. And many medications actually are safe for breastfeeding moms.
LTYM: Can you talk about a time in your professional life when you observed the healing power of story telling?
KK: Over the years, we have run a number of groups, and you cannot underestimate the therapeutic power of community- women are oftentimes isolated- their husbands are at work, they are alone caring for their babies, and when they meet other women in same situation, they are all so uplifted and feel like they are not so abnormal.
Another place where story telling is really important is when it comes to birth story. Some moms may struggle with what is known as Postpartum PTSD, often following what she perceives to be a traumatic birth. The thing that we know about birth is that it is not actually the specifics of a mom’s birth that may lead her towards PTSD, but her perception of her birth (meaning, a mom can have a “normal” vaginal birth with no interventions but leave that birth with PTSD if she felt unsafe or under supported, while a mom can have an emergency C-Section and leave that birth feeling empowered if she had all that she needed- emotionally- during the process). We need to make lots of time for her to tell her story, as she remembers it, and help her, ultimately, come up with a new set of beliefs about that birth that help her to feel more empowered and safe.
LTYM: Thank you so much, Kate! Boulder is lucky to have your practice as a resource.