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Book Review: The Postpartum Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Postpartum Depression by Paul Meier, Todd Clements, and Lynne Johnson

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While 80% of all women experience some degree of postpartum depression after the birth of a child, this common mood disorder is still viewed with disdain amongst some sections of the Christian community as well as in the world at large. Many women are told to ‘buck up’, pray more, and get it together. The shame a woman feels when accused of spiritual shortcomings only compounds the problem when the cause is often biochemical.

Thankfully Dr. Paul Meier is on a mission to change all of that for Christian women, and as a woman who has and does experience postpartum depression in spurts, his work has blessed me immensely. The writing team of The Postpartum Survival Guide approaches depression from a medically oriented perspective, though they include suggestions for nutritional and lifestyle changes as well. Meier is both a psychiatrist and ordained minister, Dr. Todd Clements is also a psychiatrist, and Lynne Johnson is a psychiatric nurse. The strongest voice is that of Dr. Meier; when personal illustrations are shared they are drawn from Meier’s experiences. Johnson’s touch can also be felt through some of the feminine touches, though her role was primarily the compilation of case studies and translating them into story form.

This concise guide to postpartum depression is an excellent primer to the illness. The authors share both an introduction to the disorder, sections written specifically for husbands, nutrition and lifestyle advice, and suggestions for further treatment. Written from a Christian perspective, the presence of God at work in the lives of each patient is a given, but you’ll not find heavy theological musings here. Eminently practical suggestions are shared throughout, alongside true-life examples from depression survivors.

Having suffered from postpartum depression following two of my three pregnancies, I deeply sympathized with the women who shared their stories of struggling through the darkness of depression. Dr. Meier’s work has equipped me to tackle afresh my symptoms, and I have already found much improvement through further research into the suggestions made in the Survival Guide. The authors are quick to suggest appropriate medications throughout, but those interested in trying a natural approach will also find many helpful suggestions within.

However excellent the title is in general, I was disappointed to find the authors making some inaccurate statements concerning midwifery and breastfeeding. Midwifery is portrayed as dangerous, and nursing past six months as somewhat foolish. As a mother of three home-birthed babies I can attest to the safety of homebirths in most circumstances, and I’ve also been delighted to practice extended breastfeeding with my children.

Despite these statements, I highly recommend The Postpartum Survival Guide to any mother struggling with sadness, lethargy, and moodiness following delivery. Just read it with a pinch of salt. Based on the symptoms and strategies shared within I’ve finally discovered a likely cause for my extensive hair-loss. By pointing out thyroid malfunction as a cause for hair loss amongst postpartum women, I’m now supplementing my diet with additional iodine, which has resulted in a miraculous improvement in mood and energy. With a more complete understanding of brain biochemistry I’m also now supplementing with vital amino acids as Dr. Meier recommends for all of his patients.

While your symptoms may differ from mine, I’m confident that this work will touch upon your particular needs. While it is not the most comprehensive work dealing with the issue, it is certainly well-rounded, providing natural as well as medical interventions and explores all of the salient points. I feel extraordinarily blessed to have read this work, the lifting of unnecessary shame alone well worth it.

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About Jennifer Bogart