AUSTIN (KXAN) — The birth of a baby can produce a mountain of emotions. For many women, those feelings can confuse and cripple her connection with a newborn, especially when they’re linked to mood disorders that strike during and after pregnancy.
But, what if the new mom is a young mom, already dealing with the stigma of teen pregnancy. How does she recognize the signs and where does she get help?
One group of Austin ISD students is answering those questions.
The teens behind the project at The Ann Richards School in Austin created a simulation designed to show people what perinatal mood disorders, like postpartum depression, sound like.
It all started as a major assignment in their biomedical class: create a project on the topic of pregnancy — using science that can solve “real world” problems.
They came up with this:
“You’re going to fail,” the recording says, that highlights dangerous and deadly thoughts. “Your baby doesn’t need you. No one will miss you when you’re gone.”
The girls used their voices in the simulation that was presented at a regional perinatal mood disorders conference last month in Austin. The response to their project was instant.
“There was this lady who listened to our simulation and she got very emotional and she started crying,” Vanessa Mireles, a 10th grader at the school. “She said that her daughter had passed away because of that.”
During their research this school year, the teens discovered that perinatal mood disorders can be much worse in teen mothers, compared to women who are a little older. They found young mothers, who are still grappling with the pressures of high school, may not get the help they need.
“You get the gestational weight gain and it’s just that on top of whatever society’s view of beauty have already been pushed upon you,” said 10th Grader Bella Thomas. “So, everything adds up on top of each other.”
“It was a matter of trying to put yourself in the teen mom’s shoes,” said Enalisa Blackman, a 10th grader who’s also in the group. “If I were suffering from postpartum depression, I would want someone to help me because I would be afraid for my life and my child’s life.”
Their science teacher, Ella Miesner, said the next step is sounding the alarm to make more teen moms aware of perinatal mood disorders.
“We know a lot about how it affects adult women, but not about how it affects teen girls,” Miesner said. “There needs to be more robust research for teens.”
The girls said the next step is taking their research to pregnancy advocacy groups in Austin, asking them to delve deeper into the issue. There is also another group of girls in the class, who worked on the same issue. They believe more laws can help teens struggling with perinatal mood disorders. They have already reached out to some state lawmakers.