Miami Filmmaker Documents Postpartum Depression

Jun 4, 2015

Miami filmmaker Maureen Fura says one in seven women will experience postpartum depression. This is a screenshot from her documentary, Dark Side of the Full Moon.
Credit Maureen Fura

Miami filmmaker Maureen Fura's latest work takes a critical look at postpartum depression and the struggle many women with this condition face when it comes to getting support and treatment.

She recently sat down with us to talk about her film, "Dark Side of the Full Moon," which is being screened Saturday in Miami Beach as part of the 10th International Women's Film Festival.

Below is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

A mom from Palm Beach County plays a key role in this film. How did meeting her prompt you to make a film about women who have struggled with postpartum depression?

I met Jennifer while filming her daughter for an autism PSA. We started talking and hearing about her experience not being able to find help in Palm Beach made me realize that I wasn't alone. Hearing that she led support groups all over PBC and had an army of women that had experienced the same thing was enough to push me to ask her, "Do you want to make a documentary with me?"

I had a baby last year. I sat through the childbirth classes. I had a doula. I had a lactation consultant, and I was never screened for postpartum depression. Is that typical?

That is so typical. That is very common. Less than 5 percent of women are getting screened by their OBs before and after their pregnancy, and that trickles down to our lactation consultants and childbirth educators. The number one reason, I think, that we've found was that care providers don't want to scare mothers. They're afraid that if they tell moms that this is a big risk that mothers are going to get freaked out, but the truth is giving mothers the knowledge of what to look for really helps women.

I was really shocked to hear that a lot of women said if they were screened, they would have said something. That just pushes the fact that all care providers need to know about this. They need to be taught that these are time sensitive illnesses, and they're very treatable. With the right help, a woman can get better fast.

In the film one of the advocates for women with this condition says it's more common than breast cancer. But with breast cancer we've all seen the pink ribbons. We all know we're supposed to get mammograms. Why haven't we seen an effort like this for postpartum depression?

When we went in to making this movie, we didn't know if it was mental health or motherhood or motherhood crashing into mental health that made this such a taboo and secretive topic. I think it has a lot to do with both. Motherhood is supposed to be perfect. Women have to play this role of "put on your smile," so we don't touch it.

What is the screening for postpartum depression?

It's 10 questions, and really it's just a door opener for providers to have this conversation. It's: Do you feel this all the time, sometimes, not all the time? Do you not feel like yourself? Are you having scary thoughts? Are you extra weepy, anxious?

Motherhood should feel really good, but sometimes after and during having a baby those hormones just take a plunge on a mother. Just like gestational diabetes, these things are common.

It's about giving care providers the knowledge that they need to talk about this at every visit. How are you feeling, really? How are you feeling? If you're not feeling okay, you need to call my office, and we're going to set you up with someone you can talk to.

There have been a lot of high-profile cases of moms either hurting themselves or their children.

Those cases are probably postpartum psychosis, which is a maternal mental health complication but it is very different from postpartum depression or anxiety.

How has the medical community responded to your work?

The University of Vermont just purchased the movie to use as part of their curriculum, so that every one of their OBs and residents gets to watch it.

Fura's film, "Dark Side of the Full Moon," will be screened Sunday, June 7 at 2:30 p.m. at the Deauville Hotel on 6701 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.

If you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression, you can click here to find help.

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