Balancing Act: Postpartum Support International and The MOTHERS Act

by Cheryl Jazzar, MHR

WellPostpartum Weblog ( – Non-Pharmacological Approaches to Treatment of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Many people have become frustrated by the lack of support for women.  Women have every right to internalize feelings of being underserved, overlooked and unsteady.  Motherhood as an institution has consistently been undervalued and minimized.  Being a mother today, and throughout history, is a shaky enterprise.  In a world where power is typically held by white men, women have been forced to create their own circles of power and influence that exist apart from the status quo. 

When women create their own circles of power, it is not primarily to enhance or engage in larger circles of power.  These types of organizations are created by women; for women. 

The advocacy and support group Postpartum Support International is one such group.  When Jane Honikman, founder of PSI looked around and saw that an important need was going unmet, she created an organization of (mostly) women serving other women.

“Some will choose to curse the darkness; and some will light a candle.”

Jane decided to create a new structure and form an organization on a firm foundation- social support for women.  A great deal of time and consideration were given to the task of how best to serve many different types of women.  Countless women were listened to and many provided the hope that someone else cared and understood what they were going through.  The value of this legacy of social support cannot ever be measured.  It’s worth is far above quantification.  The ripple effect is enormous.  Jane was a woman who knew how to pay it forward.

As her efforts grew, she collected stories of people who used various methods to succeed in their battle with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders; and those who did not.  The movement, rooted in the stable concept of social support, grew to include many different ideas about how to best support women- all different types of women.  Yes, we advocates have each brought our own ideas to the table, but we have consistently been reminded that one-size-fits-none.  

Jane knew she was not supporting her own unmet needs.  To do so would rob other women from the experience she wanted to create-inclusiveness and support.  She had the vision to realize that mothers are not all the same.  Their needs are wildly different from one another. 

There are some universal truths in serving women.  Women around the world want to be heard.  They want their experiences understood and validated by other women, preferably women who are like them.  Women like to be supported by other mothers who are similar in race, age, socio-economic status, religion and/or nationality.  The idea that the use of psychiatric medications in pregnant women and new mothers is universal is ridiculous.  Any informed person would never believe this.  The preferred use of psych meds for women in general is not a universal truth.

The truth is, some women will choose to use psychiatric medications and they WANT TO BE SUPPORTED by women who have this type of experience.  Some women believe that psychiatric medications are the best hope they have for wholeness.  They may be extremely reluctant to consider any type of treatment that does not include medication. 

On the other hand, women who want information on alternatives to medication also need to be able to choose an approach that suits who they are as individuals.  A full half of our target population is seeking information on integrative, complimentary or alternative care of mood disorders.  These women also deserve rigorous research, informed consent and knowledgeable care providers.

All women deserve to have risks and benefits of various treatment options explained to them.  And, for goodness’ sake, if a system of care is not available to serve the needs of mothers, one can be created.  This has been a main goal of PSI for years.  The Melanie Blocker-Stokes MOTHERS Act will go a great distance to further the goals of PSI as it will create a basic nationwide system of care for all women.

Since the beginning, Postpartum Support International has strived to serve the varied needs of all women.  We are [mostly] women from every walk of life- every profession, religion, lifestyle, socio-economic status and belief.  PSI’s mission is to promote awareness, prevention and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide.  None within PSI would ever be so bold- or naive- to assume that treatment for one woman in China would be remotely similar to the treatment choices of a poor woman in the rural south of the United States.  For those who understand PSI’s mission and know how we work to achieve that mission it is obvious that “treatment” includes a wide array of approaches- most non-pharmacological

PSI is actually currently working to enhance it’s collective knowledge of non-pharmacological approaches to the treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  For years the education PSI has provided has reflected this balanced view- from an anthropological viewpoint.  PSI been inclusive of many different types of psychological therapy, psychiatric medications, alternatives to medication and social support- we know that variety is what is needed.  We realize that over five years ago the tide against standard medical care shifted toward integrative care.  

One thing we certainly are is a group of people who knows the value of breastfeeding.  Among PSI members you will find some of the most outstanding breastfeeding advocates in the world.  People who have dedicated their life to breastfeeding support are keenly interested in the safety AND DANGER of medications during pregnancy and lactation. 

Again, when women create an organization outside traditional power structures it is not to serve those power structures (AKA the drug industry), but to serve other women. This is the plain and simple truth of Postpartum Support International. 

If PSI existed to serve the drug industry I would know about it and I would certainly NOT be a member.  My life’s work is serving other women by providing information on non-pharmacological approaches to PMADs and other approaches.  And, I am a proud member of PSI.  I know how open this organization is to non-medical approaches and I also know the merits of the hard work they are doing.  I have been proud to serve hundreds of mothers with this stable organizational structure under-girding my passion and helping to keep my own perspectives steady and fair. 

When I realized there needed to be an outlet for information on integrative care it was with the help of Wendy Davis, PSI board member and Coordinator Chair.  I know how many past presidents and current board members read WellPostpartum Weblog and together we realize the importance of maintaining a balanced viewpoint. 

I encourage you to get to know PSI.  Find out why it is an organization worth supporting.  Find out just how balanced an organization we are.  Attend our conferences and take our trainings.  We all have the option of cursing the darkness.  I’m so glad Jane Honikman chose to instead light a candle.

For those who want to help women:

1.  Join PSI -our fine organiztion.  We know we need different viewpoints in order to be effective on a global level. 

2. Read the bill and see for yourself how it will impact women’s lives.  Then email Susan Stone to list yourself as a supporter!

You will see that the only way to truly honor women is to support the Melanie Blocker-Stokes MOTHERS Act.  The bottom line of this legislation is that more women will get the help they need.

3. Contact your state’s legislators.  Let them know how important more services for women are.

Thank you for your support!  Please leave your comments below…


Warm regards,

Cheryl Jazzar

2 Responses to “Balancing Act: Postpartum Support International and The MOTHERS Act”
  1. Lauren says:

    Cheryl –

    Couldn’t have stated it better myself. An Absolutely STUNNING post explaining the ins and outs of PSI and how rooted we are in the integrative care approach. THANK You for your words and your support for Blog Week!

    Lauren Hale

  2. Melissa Hoffman says:

    Great post Cheryl! Keep up the good work!
    My best,
    Melissa Hoffman
    PSI Kansas Coordinator

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