2016 Postpartum Support International (PSI) Conference
written by Melissa Bentley, PPHA Board of Director
A few weeks ago was the annual PSI conference, this year held in San Diego, California. It was my first time to attend a PSI conference, and it certainly won’t be my last! Simply being surrounded by more than 400 others who share my passion for working with moms and families who are impacted by perinatal mood disorders (PMDs), I felt at home – despite being 1300 miles away.
In addition to the opportunity to meet and network with others in the field, there were 4 keynote speakers and 49 informative breakout sessions. Topics explored included: specific areas of PMDs, suggestions for how to be more effective in helping moms and families, and how we can leverage the collective power of PSI and its volunteers.
The first keynote speaker, Dr. Vivien Burt, explored the wide body of research regarding the use of antidepressants during pregnancy and postpartum. Many of these studies have been misconstrued by the general media, causing unnecessary fear and guilt by women who are seeking sometimes life-saving treatment for PMDs. Dr. Burt explained how it is impossible to know the exact cause of birth defects or malformations, as we are unable to ethically conduct research that would provide a more causal link. Instead, more often the relationships between antidepressant medication use and birth defects are more likely caused by a third condition that perhaps contributed to the need for antidepressants and mood stabilizers in the first place. I feel more prepared to answer questions about medication use, although of course I will refer any mom with concerns to a qualified medical professional.
As much as I thoroughly enjoyed learning information and perspectives, I found the networking with other professionals to be my favorite part of the conference. During the volunteer meeting on Thursday, I learned how other organizations manage their programs, from measuring program outcomes to soliciting feedback from participants. I shared some of our processes and connected with folks in organizations that we had researched online recently for ideas.
I walked away from the PSI Conference feeling as though I am riding a huge wave of enthusiasm and excitement about raising awareness and helping women and families impacted by PMDs. I was reminded that what I am doing, and what PPHA is doing, is making a real difference. But there is real potential for making even MORE of a difference! Connecting to others in this area and seeking out new information are just a part of helping enrich the ways we can help our community.