New Mommy and Me Program helps New Mothers with Postpartum Depression
By Erika Pozzuolo, LMHC, PMH-C, Maternal/ Child Health Lead Therapist,
Oak Orchard Health, a community health center with 11 locations in the region
You have given birth to your baby, what an exciting time! It can also be an overwhelming time with the middle-of-the-night feedings, sleep deprivation, and maybe there are more children to care for. Wow!
If you can think of seven women you know who have had a baby– statistics suggest that at least one of those women experienced postpartum depression or anxiety (Postpartum Support International)! This is only part of the reason that this year Oak Orchard Health launched our new Mommy and Me program in all locations. This program is an extremely innovative approach to improve child health outcomes in our region, and not only that but to also improve maternal health outcomes, with special attention to mental health in the postpartum period.
This support through the Mommy and Me Program extends to guardians of pediatric patients under the age of 5 at Oak Orchard Health. Patients now, as standard practice, will bemet by a care manager in several of their child’s well visits, from birth to age 4 ½. Through some questions and interviewing, we can identify and help address any needs the family may have. Care managers will be evaluating for postpartum depression and anxiety, and then refer patients to one of our behavioral health counselors specializing in perinatal mental health.
You now have a care manager on your medical team
These care managers will also be helping to track children’s vaccination due dates, referrals for the first dental visit, and more. We will help fill in the gaps financially by referring to WIC (a supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children), as well as maintaining a diaper bank to help supplement families struggling with the cost of diapers. This initiative also includes an early literacy program, where pediatricians will be providing age-appropriate books at well visits and education for parents on how to best help their child develop literacy and language.
Why this new program?
The initial idea for Mommy and Me came from our Medical Director and Pediatrician, Dr. Danielle Renodin-Mead. She brought to our attention that the U.S. has some of the poorest health outcomes for children and their birth mothers. Just one large contributing factor to this is our cultures’ approach to postpartum mental health, as well as the stigma that often surrounds this. That stigma is a barrier to mothers seeking the necessary care they need. Most people may have some awareness of “the baby blues,” a very commonly experienced emotional expression of hormonal shifts that take place following the birth of a baby and lasts up to about two weeks postpartum.
There are, however, many new moms who present as more serious than typical “baby blues.” That often means it lasts longer and can be very debilitating. If left unidentified or untreated, these mood or anxiety disorders can have a significant impact on family, sleep, ability to breastfeed, and overall wellness, negatively impacting both Mom and baby. Fathers also commonly experience anxiety and depression. We also will be paying special attention to other guardians, like grandparents or adoptive parents taking in babies.
The Mommy and Me Program at Oak Orchard Health
Part of our team’s mission for the Mommy and Me Program is to break down the barriers to treating postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychosis. We want to send the message that these things are somewhat common and very treatable. Oftentimes we already have risk factors prior to pregnancy, that can make us more likely to develop a postpartum mood disorder.
Oak Orchard Health’s Mommy and Me program is also here to support women and families who are experiencing infertility, infant loss, or birth traumas, through counseling support. It’s been my experience that a great deal of shame weighs on women who experience postpartum depression, intrusive thoughts, and intense anxiety, after bringing their baby home. However, when given the right information and platform to share, so many women can identify with these experiences. The more we open up the conversation about postpartum mental health, the more women and families can possibly prepare, or recognize the signs, and seek support earlier.
Coincidently, most of our providers involved with Mommy and Me are also women, and mothers themselves, passionate about supporting the women of our communities and seeing families thrive. We have been so excited to see this program come to life, set an example of support, bring awareness, and maybe even inspire other similar programs to be developed elsewhere.