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Book Review: When Postpartum Packs a Punch

When Postpartum Packs a Punch: Fighting Back and Finding Joy. Kristina Cowan. Praeclarus Press, April 27, 2017, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 274 pages.

Reviewed by Sue Merrell.

When my colicky son was two months old, I heard a report on the radio about a woman who drowned her two-month-old in a diaper pail. I laughed. In my weary state, her response sounded perfectly logical.

Forty years later, I was recently reminded of my feelings of maternal melancholy while reading When Postpartum Packs a Punch: Fighting Back and Finding Joy.

Written by Chicago-area journalist and mother, Kristina Cowan, this concise volume covers a spectrum of postpartum mental health disorders from the common Baby Blues to headline-grabbing postpartum psychosis. Each disorder is explained carefully with a lot of information from medical experts on symptoms and treatments. The book also includes interviews with mothers who have dealt with the more severe symptoms of postpartum mental health disorders, including hearing voices and losing touch with reality. 

Cowan was inspired to write the book after dealing with the difficult birth of her son, Noah, which left her injured enough to require a return trip to the emergency room. This was followed by a deep depression requiring medication and counseling.

Cowan’s Christian faith shines through her own experiences, and that of many of the women she interviewed. Though she advises prayer and seeking the support of a faith family, Cowan doesn’t pretend that postpartum depression can be cured by faith alone. The book is packed with common sense solutions, which include getting plenty of rest, seeking well-informed medical advice, going through counseling, and if necessary, taking medication.

Cowan provides interesting information about the mother-baby units in the United Kingdom. These units are medical facilities where mothers who require postpartum treatment are hospitalized with their babies. There is also a healthy appendix of recommended reading and descriptions of organizations to contact for more information about postpartum mental health.

The first few pages of Cowan’s book act as the directory of acronyms, like PMAD, PPA, PPND, and PPOCD. Because she uses these acronyms liberally throughout the text, I suggest you print it out and have it on hand as a reference. Sometimes the alphabet soup of acronyms can get confusing when Cowan compares the symptoms of various disorders

Cowan is clear that the book was not written to scare mothers—and fathers—about what might go wrong postpartum, but rather she wants to offer hope and solutions to families who are suffering. A smiling photo of Cowan, with her husband and two children, emblemizes the book’s premise: Joy and a rewarding parenting experience can be found at the end of the tunnel of postpartum depression. 


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