ESSEX— Women in Baltimore County who experience mental health issues that stem from infertility, the challenges of motherhood, menopause or other health complications are in good hands thanks to a local Adult and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, perinatal depression is the most common obstetric complication in the United States, with prevalence rates of 15% to 20% among new mothers.
This may seem like a daunting statistic but Sharon Praissman Fisher is determined to help and reduce the number of women who experience perinatal depression and other women’s health issues.
“Mental health can be insidious and often a woman is far into depression or anxiety before she realizes it. At that point, accessing help can be too overwhelming for her,” Praissman Fisher said. “Early Intervention is best.”
Praissman Fisher has been a nurse in Baltimore County and Baltimore City for almost 20 years and has spent about 15 years working in various areas of mental health. She became inspired to help women with their fertility and mental health issues after experiencing her own struggles with fertility.
“While my husband and I were going through our own fertility journey, I vowed that once I had a child, I would do something to help other families struggling with fertility. That grew into wanting to help women through all stages of the process and beyond,” Praissman Fisher said.
“I’ve also been a feminist my whole life and clearly saw the intersection of mental health and how women are viewed and treated worldwide. From countries where rape is actually legal to the USA where women are expected to be all things all the time.”
Johns Hopkins Hospital is where Praissman Fisher got her start as an RN. Once she started her own practice as an Adult and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Praissman Fisher began to help women with traditional medication management, mindfulness training, cognitive behavioral therapy and lifestyle recommendations.
“I also love educating family members because often they see something is wrong but feel powerless to do anything about it,” Praissman Fisher said.
“I talk about what care can look like in terms of therapy, medication, and coping skills. I also talk about how to access help and how to overcome barriers.”
In addition to tending to her patients, Praissman and Fisher has also published a book, Beyond The Egg Timer: A Companion Guide For Having babies in Your Mid-Thirties and Older, which aims to debunk any myths and calm any fears women of a certain age may have if they are or wish to become pregnant.
“There really is no other book like it in the genre. Instead of telling people ‘how to get pregnant’, it offers narratives from diverse women and coping advice for whatever your journey looks like,” Praissman Fisher said.
Praissman Fisher said she began to write the book when she was “in the depths of her infertility.”
“It was a salve for me. It was like a light switched on and my struggle made a lot more sense. It took us five years to complete the book but I learned a lot, not only about the process of writing a book but also about the topics we researched for it and the women we interviewed,” Praissman Fisher said.
This year Praissman Fisher has taken on an additional role and has joined 2020 Mom Ambassador which is an advocacy group aimed at closing gaps in maternal mental health care across the nation.
As an ambassador, Praissman Fisher hosts talks to educate the public about the issues associated with infertility postpartum depression, menopause and other women’s mental health issues. She said she also hosts events like color runs or shows movies about maternal mental health.
She recently had one of these community talks at the Essex Library where she said the crowd was small but interested in what she had to say.
“People are definitely interested in this topic and I think the resources have increased through the years. In fact, Johns Hopkins Bayview now has a weekly free support group for moms as well as a Women’s Mood Disorder Clinic with specialists in the area. However, stigma and misinformation remain especially about taking medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding.”
Praissman Fisher said 2020 is a big year for her practice as she welcomes a second nurse practitioner who is also a midwife. She will also be partnering with other stakeholders in the community to offer a seminar series for couples experiencing infertility as well as educational events for providers.
She said she also has the writing bug and plans to explore new ways to provide informative content for her patients and community like writing on her Nurtured Well blog which focuses on things that affect women of all ages and stages, and blogging for Psychology Today on fertility and older mom specific issues.
“I’m doing the best I can with what I have. With grace and gratitude, I’m moving forward,” Praissman Fisher wrote in her Nurtured well blog.
She wrote saying that phrase is her favorite mantra and encourages other women to create their own mantras as well.
“I’m very intentional about the words because so often we blame ourselves for failures when it’s really an impossible situation,” Praissman Fisher said.
“It’s important to remember what you are working with. It’s also important to stay thankful for what you have and what is going well. Lastly, we cannot change the past so there is no need to get stuck there.”