Every year, Postpartum Support International (PSI) holds a conference that brings together people in the perinatal mental health field. By definition, the perinatal period refers to the period of time from conception up to a year after birth. As such, anyone who supports mothers and families during this period is an important part of the perinatal mental health field.
This year’s conference was the 32nd of its kind. We are grateful to have had a chance to attend the 2019 PSI Conference. As Kenya coordinator for PSI, this was a great opportunity to meet, learn and network with others in this field. The conference, held between June 26th and June 30th at the Hilton Downtown in Portland OR, brought together more than 700 attendees from all over the USA, as well as four organizations represented from Africa which included Postpartum Depression Kenya (PPDKenya), Perinatal Services (KE), SPANS (Zimbabwe) and Postpartum Support Network – PSN (Nigeria). This was made possible by the Perinatal Action Fund which provides conference scholarships for people of colour.
The conference began with a 2-day certificate course that covered Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Components of Care. The next three days included expert keynotes, breakout sessions, a poster session the Hickman Research Award and the Kruckman White Award. The conference came to an end on Sunday with the advanced PMH psychotherapy training.
Above images courtesy of Ivy Shih Leung
Perinatal Mood Disorders: Components of Care
This 2-day training covered various components of care for mothers and families in the perinatal period, and was facilitated by Birdie Gunyon and Pec Indman.
The training covered topics that included the full spectrum of PMADs (that is Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders), the screening process, cultural relevance, the importance of social support as well as resources available for those in the perinatal period. It was an eye-opening training that gave much insight into ways to improve our Elimisha Mama program in partnering hospitals.
One of the highlights during this session was to know that symptoms of PMADs may present differently, with moms often saying things like:
I cannot cope.
I feel like I am a bad mom and my child could do with a better mom.
This doesn’t feel like me; I miss the old me.
I feel so alone, I don’t think motherhood is for me.
I am losing it.
This is important to note because often, mothers with an undiagnosed PMAD may not have the right words to express emotional pain.
Addressing cultural dimensions of PMADs
Cultural dimensions have a great impact in women’s perinatal mental health – and for good reason. Research shows that PMADs are a universal experience for women and families across the world. It was interesting to note, however, that there were very few studies and almost no existing data in African countries. Without this data, it becomes difficult to evaluate risk factors, create interventions or formulate policies to improve perinatal mental health. This is why Postpartum Depression Kenya is willing to partner with organizations interested in carrying out research in this field.
Still on culture, the training highlighted the need for culturally sensitive interventions and informed interactions. For this, Postpartum Depression Kenya is using the Kiswahili version of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to reach moms from different communities in Kenya [source].
On Social Support
The training brought to light the importance of social support networks for mothers during the perinatal period. This support may come from partners, relatives, faith communities and support groups. To be able to provide the right support, it is vital that persons in this cpcity are well informed on perinatal mental illnesses.
The 2019 PSI Conference had three keynote speakers:
- Shafia Monroe, a renowned midwife and doula training whose opening keynote covered cultural competency and inclusion in perinatal mental health.
- Lee Cohen who is the director of the Ammon-Pinzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health in Massachusetts. His keynote covered resolved and unresolved questions in perinatal psychiatry, aptly titled ‘From Knowns to Unknowns’
- Trystan Reese whose keynote addressed ways to supporttransgender parents and the LGBTQ community.
Each day, after the keynotes, there were different breakout sessions to delve further into key aspects of the perinatal mental health field. Postpartum Depression Kenya was represented at a number of them, including ‘Conversations that count: Factoring in the Fathers’ (we are saying hello to Daniel Singley and Jane Honikman!), Supporting the Highly sensitive Parent by the lovely Dr. Kat Kaeni of Mom and Mind podcast, the differences between Postpartum Psychosis and OCD (and why it is important as well as Community-Based Postpartum Support Model for families by Mollie and Melenie. Each of these sessions added to our body of knowledge, and sparked new ideas on how to improve our current programs here in Kenya.
Some of the slide presentations during Dr. Kat Kaeni’s breakout session on ‘The Highly Sensitive Parent”
The Kruckman-White Award
The Kruckman-White Award is given each year in recognition of individuals or groups involved in creating awareness and providing support in the perinatal mental health field. We are so proud to have our founder, Samoina, as one of the recipients for the 2019 Kruckman-White Award.
The 32nd PSI conference was a great opportunity for our organization to learn more, make new friends and expand networks in the perinatal mental health field globally. We would like to thank the lovely Wendy Davis, Executive Director at PSI, and the team for their efforts in ensuring we attended the conference and training to better improve our work.