Hedwige St. Louis, or Didi to those who know her, is an amazing woman doing wonderful things here in the state of Georgia. She’s spearheading the development of a statewide Perinatal resource organization, The Georgia Postpartum Support Network. Her passion for working with women struggling with Postpartum Mood Disorders springs from professional and personal experiences. As an OB, she sees women with Postpartum Mood Disorders through her practice. As a Mom, she is a survivor of a Mood Disorder, something which helped to inspire her to develop this network. Thank you Didi, for taking on such a tremendously important and much needed project!
Tell us a little bit about who Didi is when she’s not being an OB or volunteering with Postpartum Support.
When I’m not an Ob or volunteering with GPSN, I am a mom to an amazing little guy who just turned 3. I’m married to a DJ of all things and I have a dog. I love to work out, play piano, and read. I was originally born in NYC, then due to my dad’s job I grew up in Europe, South America and the Caribbean. I came back to the US for College and have been here since.
What has been your personal experience with Postpartum Mood Disorders? Did your training and education prepare you at all?
In 2006, after having my son I experienced postpartum depression with some OCD component to it. At the time I was completely unaware and just felt isolated. I had nothing to go on and just thought something was wrong with me and if I just hung in there eventually I would be myself again. A year later my sister made a comment and that’s when I realised that I was depressed for the entire first year of my son’s life, it also explained my extreme hair loss and all the other symptoms. My training and education did not prepare me, because you never think it’s going to happen to you. Furthermore most physician are more familiar with the extremes of Perinatal Mood Disorders, but the subtle ones, where the person is functioning, are harder to catch if you don’t screen the person for it. Now I know that I was a poster child for PMD: Type A, primary bread winner, in charge of household finances, history of depression. But my experience has made me a much better physician and brought me closer to my patients.
Speaking of your training, share with us what limitations (if any) you are faced with as an OB when a woman may be presenting with a Mood Disorder during her Postpartum visit. What do you feel would give you more of an opening or provide more options for you to help women with a PMD?
Now that I have made my mission to be better educated about this illness and its many facets, I feel better prepared because rather than waiting for my patient to present with the illness, I am working to have our whole practice routinely screen our patients so we can catch them early. I also make it a point to educate my patients towards the end of the pregnancy about all the feelings they will experience and I encourage them to feel comfortable in calling our office to talk to any of the providers or nurses. Working with GPSN has also allowed me to identify more resources than i had in the beginning, both online and in the state. My goal is to have resources available to women across the state.
Share with us three things that made you laugh or smile today.
My spinning class this morning, my son’s smile and laugh and some music my husband gave me last night.
We met as you were developing a statewide support network for women and families with PMD’s. How did you get started on this project?
I started on it because I was frustrated at the lack of resources. I had several patients dealing with a perinatal mood disorders and while some did well with the couple of referrals I had, others did not. And for those who didn’t, I had no alternatives. this was frustrating because as a physician, a mom, I am used to providing my patients with answers, solutions and I couldn’t.
Tell us about GPSN. What do you hope to achieve with this organization and where do you see it going?
GPSN was started as a resource and support organization. Our goal is to provide women with the information they need so they can make informed choices and find the right treatment alternative for themselves as they are battling their perinatal mood disorders. Our goals include developing a database of health-care providers who know how to manage PMD, educate all health-care providers who take care of pregnant women so that screening for PMD becomes routine, educate the public about PMD so that family, friends and spouses will better understand PMDs and be better able to support their loved one as they are dealing with their illness. Five years from now, I would like to see GPSN actively participating in the community through our support warm-line, community workshops, support groups and continuing medical education for health-care providers.
What do you find to be the most challenging about parenting? The least challenging?
The most challenging part of parenting, the unpredictability!! I am very type A, I like to plan everything for the next month, Donovan (my son) has a different take on that, for him life is a series of discoveries, so I have had to learn to pace myself and be patient, so I let him find his path.
The least challenging…loving him. He is the best thing I have ever done and for all the pain of that first year, I would do it over in a heartbeat.
As mothers it is so important we remember to Mother ourselves, something we often push to the side. What do YOU do to mother yourself?
This year I am slowly coming into my own, but it’s taken a while for me to start taking care of myself the way I use to before having Donovan. I make time to work out just about everyday, I play with Donovan which is very therapeutic for me and i make time to read. This year I also plan on cultivating my friendships a little better and a little more.
What effect, if any, did your Postpartum experience have on your marriage?
For a while there was a distance between my husband and I. We struggled with communication, but we are working through it and I think my husband understands better the importance of sharing parenting duties, giving me a break and supporting me.
Last but not least, what advice would you give to an expectant mother (new or experienced) regarding Postpartum Mood Disorders?
Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone and if you don’t get helpful response, try again until you find it. Don’t give up on yourself, it’s not your fault and there are thousands of women out there who will readily embrace you and help you through this.
Thanks Lauren, those were some very thoughtful questions.