When Sacramento, California mom Jessica Porten started experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression four months after the birth of her daughter, Kira, her husband scheduled a doctor's appointment so she could seek help.
When Sacramento, California mom Jessica Porten started experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression four months after the birth of her daughter, Kira, her husband scheduled a doctor's appointment so she could seek help. He even called ahead to explain the reason for her visit.
But when Jessica arrived, and confided in a nurse practitioner, her appointment took an unexpected turn.
In a now-viral Facebook post, Jessica wrote, "I tell them I have a very strong support system at home, so although I would never hurt myself or my baby, I’m having violent thoughts and I need medication and therapy to get through this."
Then Jessica claims the nurse practitioner left the room and called the police—not to arrest her, but to bring her to the emergency room for an evaluation. “They told me they need to handle this in the ER,” she tells Women's Health.
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Once she arrived at the hospital, Jessica says she had blood drawn and a urine sample taken. During the entire ordeal, which lasted 10 hours, Jessica had her four-month-old baby with her. “There was no comfortable place for me to sit and nurse her. They took my shoes away and I was just walking around in socks,” she says. They also took her clothes so that she couldn’t harm herself with them.
“The attitude of the hospital staff from the start was very much ‘I’m so sorry, but I have to, it’s just our protocol,'” Jessica says.
At 10:45 p.m., Jessica finally met with a social worker for evaluation. “If I didn’t get cleared, I’d have to go on a 72-hour psychiatric hold and be separated from my family. Still, I kept telling them I was not going to hurt myself or my children,” she explains.
She says the social worker decided against putting her on a psychiatric hold, and discharged her. While she says the social worker was very thorough and caring, she couldn’t do much except hand her papers with resources for women suffering from postpartum depression.
"I leave the ER at midnight, my spirit more broken than ever, no medication, no follow up appointment, never spoke to a doctor," Jessica wrote in her Facebook post.
According to ABC News, which covered the story, Jessica's ob-gyn office confirmed that she had an appointment that day. ABC News also says the Sacramento Police Department verified that they responded to a call that day. And, while the hospital wouldn't verify the events because of privacy, the news network says Jessica showed them discharge papers from the hospital.
This is what it's like to suffer from depression:
Jessica's story is alarming—but it's not the norm for all women with symptoms of PPD.
Most obstetricians use postpartum depression screenings to evaluate women and pinpoint who may be at risk, says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine. (You should also be screened at the pediatrician's office, according to 2010 guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.)
"If this isn't an emergency—the patient isn't suicidal—we can take care of women in an outpatient setting. Women shouldn't be afraid of discussing these issues with providers," she adds.
However, if a patient confesses to suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of hurting the baby, or planning to do so, then the doctor is obligated to do more than just provide in-office counseling. "In those situations, medical folks are obligated to get the patient to an emergency facility for an evaluation immediately," explains Minkin.
Regardless, you should feel supported by your healthcare team. The Seleni Institute, a non-profit focused on emotional health in families, suggests opening up to the doctor you trust the most (whether that's your general practitioner or an obstetrician), and bringing a list to the office that expresses your symptoms, questions, and concerns. It's also important to express even scary thoughts without worrying about being judged.
"In obstetrics, I hope that we are all taking women seriously with these problems. I hope that we have been getting better on evaluating a treating these women," adds Minkin.
While in her original post, Jessica said she was still processing her emotions about the ordeal, she now has a clear picture of how she wants her experience to help other moms.
"Millions of women have [violent thoughts] without acting on them. We need to raise awareness that if you’re having these thoughts you’re not alone,” says Jessica. “I want to do everything I can to end the stigma about this."
She adds, “I want to make sure other people they serve are receiving quality care. I want to fix it,” she says.
If you're a new mom who may be suffering from postpartum depression, Jessica urges you to reach out to someone you trust. You can also call the Postpartum Support International line at 1-800-944-4773.