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Public Health Day to put focus on postpartum depression

Wendy Davis, CEO of Postpartum Support International
Wendy Davis, CEO of Postpartum Support International

Postpartum depression affects 15% of all childbearing women, and up to 10% will experience depression or anxiety during pregnancy. 

Those numbers make it a rather common experience, yet the conditions remain a stigma for many, according to Stephanie Hanson, who is organizing Public Health Day presentations at South Dakota State University to raise awareness and offer hope to those who have experienced postpartum depression. 

The free presentations are April 2 and include a lunch hour message by Hanson as well as a keynote address by a leading authority for postpartum mental health. In the evening, there will be a screening of a documentary followed by a panel discussion. 

Hanson, who arrived at SDSU in August 2022, is a population health instructor and the director of a four-year grant that focuses on improving perinatal health outcomes in South Dakota. She is also a two-time survivor of perinatal depression and anxiety as well as postpartum PTSD and psychosis. 

She made the topic the focus of her master’s degree research at George Washington University as well as her current doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota. 

Events are designed for a general audience and are not intended to be an academic lecture. Hanson hopes the event attracts people who have experienced postpartum issues as well as those who provide health care services. She added that up to 10% of fathers can also experience postpartum issues. 

In addition to depression, postpartum disorders can include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolarism and psychosis. 

Hanson said validated screening tools can be used during perinatal and postpartum appointments, and South Dakota health care providers are good about giving that quiz. 

“The problem is more around access to appropriate services if the people test positive after screening. For example, there is not a single reproductive psychologist in the state of South Dakota” and questions about the safety of various psychiatric medications can be complicated, Hanson said. 

Postpartum keynoter speaks at 1 p.m. 

Public Health Day begins with lunch at 11:45 a.m. in the Woster Celebration Hall of the SDSU Alumni Center. Hanson’s team will give an overview of her federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant and a brief overview of perinatal mental health disorders followed by a talk on her own experiences. 

At 1 p.m., Wendy Davis, president and CEO of Postpartum Support International, of Portland, Oregon, will speak on “Why It Matters” and will provide broader context to the importance of understanding perinatal mental health disorders and their impact on mothers, infants and families. 

Davis began her career as a psychotherapist in 1987 and started specializing in perinatal mental health after recovering from postpartum depression and anxiety in 1994. She founded Oregon’s first perinatal mental health support organization in 1994, became a support coordinator for Postpartum Support International in 1997, and was hired as its executive director in 2009. 

Hanson said Davis is recognized as America’s leading expert in postpartum issues, and she is thrilled to have her coming to Brookings. 

Documentary to be shown at 5:30 p.m. 

An evening session will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Room 043 of the Avera Health and Science Center on campus with a screening of the documentary “When the Bough Breaks: A Documentary About Postpartum Depression.” 

“This is a documentary about different women’s experiences and also features a father whose partner experienced postpartum depression. It’s a pretty heavy film for those who have experienced postpartum depression. That is why we have a panel at 7 p.m. to give a hopeful perspective,” Hanson said. 

The panel will include Davis, Hanson, Yellow Medicine Midwifery, of Granite Falls, Minnesota; Childbirth Support Specialists and Jim Amell, coordinator of the Master of Public Health program at SDSU. 

Pizza will be provided in advance of the movie. Hanson reiterated that all facets of Public Health Day are free. However, advance registration is requested online.

An option to participate virtually also is available through the registration link. 

“When a mom is experiencing these issues, she is less responsive to her infant, which means there is less bonding. If left unaddressed, that can have long-term developmental issues for the infant as well as health issues for the mother,” Hanson said.

For more information, email Hanson through the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions.