In recent years there's been an effort to inform people that the weeks and months after you give birth aren't always spent blissfully cooing at your newborn while sitting in a rocking chair bathed in sunlight. In fact, there's a chance you'll develop terrible depressive and even suicidal thoughts. Now one hospital is taking a step beyond awareness campaigns and creating a program tailored specifically to the needs of women suffering from postpartum depression.
Starting tomorrow, the University of North Carolina hospital in Chapel Hill will be home to the nation's first free-standing perinatal psychiatry unit. Chris Raines, a therapist at UNC's new Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, tells NPR that she was inspired to start the clinic after meeting Maria Bruno, a woman who was placed in the hospital's inpatient psychiatric ward after being diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. There was no specific program for women like Bruno, so she wound up in group therapy sessions with people suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction. Since she was on suicide watch, she had to be observed while pumping breast milk and wasn't allowed to see her baby. Bruno was released after five days, but says the experience was traumatic. "I can't talk about it without crying most of the time," Bruno says. "It's in my gut. It will never escape me, that experience."
The new clinic is designed to accommodate the needs of new mothers. There are comfortable areas set up from breastfeeding and pumping, as well as individual and family therapy sessions. (A particularly good idea, not only because the condition affects the entire family, but because some new fathers have shown symptoms of depression too.) There are also extended visiting hours for babies, so hospitalized moms can still establish a routine with their babies.
The doctors who run the clinic say they've already started receiving calls from other medical professionals around the country who want to know more about the services they offer. Hopefully the new program will serve as an example, and lead to better treatment options for the many new parents who suffer from postpartum depression.
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