Women who are expecting or are within two years postpartum are at higher risk for a behavioral health issue than any other time in their life. At the same time, many have a little bundle of joy that can make seeking treatment personally difficult because of childcare arrangements, nursing and other issues.
It was while thinking about how to help women overcome these barriers that the idea for Pine Rest’s Mother & Baby Program was born. The program is a short-term, intensive day program that allows women to bring their infant along to daily treatment, provides a nursery and child care as well as opportunities to help new moms bond with their child. The program addresses perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) which includes depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), both during pregnancy as well as postpartum.
Only the second such program when it started in December 2012, the Mother & Baby Program has now served nearly 900 women.
“Women love meeting other moms who are going through the same struggles,” says Kerrie VanWeelden, LMSW who is a clinical social worker in the program. “Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are so isolating and women feel like they are alone in how they are feeling. One woman told us, ‘I hear my thoughts and feelings come out of other women’s mouths and it makes me feel so affirmed.’”
The clinicians treating PMADs both in the Mother & Baby Program and in Pine Rest’s outpatient network, have been working have been working to promote awareness about all the symptoms in addition to sadness that signal PMAD. Most people – even physicians – didn’t realize all the different symptoms.
Symptoms of PMAD
- Excessive worry
- Scary thoughts
- Sleep problems
- Loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed
- Change in appetite
- Difficulty making decisions
Quite a few of the women treated at the Mother & Baby Program have gone on to become advocates for maternal mental health within their personal networks and by participating in PMAD awareness events like Postpartum Support International’s Climb Out of the Darkness, supporting local mothers through organizations like MomsBloom and, in some cases, made career changes to help treat other women like themselves.
Through the program and all the connections our clinicians treating PMAD have made, Pine Rest has able to help break down stigma around mental illness…especially PMAD.
Common misconceptions about PMAD
Myth: Symptoms begin immediately postpartum
Truth: Symptoms can start during pregnancy
Myth: Your highest time of risk is right after baby is born
Truth: Your highest time of risk is six months after baby is born
Myth: If you don’t get PMAD with the first baby, you are home free with subsequent pregnancies and babies.
Truth: PMAD can affect women who already have one or more children and have never struggled before.
Myth: I’m a bad mom if I have a PMAD.
Truth: PMAD is a disease that can happen to any mom…it doesn’t make you a bad mom and it’s not your fault.
Myth: There’s nothing I can do to prevent getting a PMAD.
Truth: Expectant moms can work with a professional and their support system to reduce their risk for developing PMAD.
Myth: Women can beat PMAD on their own if they really want to – they don’t need help.
Truth: Like any illness, recovery will happen more quickly and completely if professional help is sought.
Myth: Older children are not affected by PMAD.
Truth: The whole family can be affected by PMAD. But the good news is that any negative effects can be minimized or completely reversed when the mother receives professional treatment.
Myth: I’ll be reported to child protective services if I seek treatment.
Truth: Women seeking treatment so they can be a better mom is not a reason to report to CPS.
How to Contact the Mother & Baby Program
Do you have questions? Need to find resources? Not sure where to start?
Many pregnant moms and new parents feel sad, worried, anxious and overwhelmed. Our free and confidential HOPElines can connect you with help and resources. Everyone…moms, partners, parents, siblings, friends, physicians…are welcome! Calls returned within one business day.
IN MICHIGAN: Call 844.MOM.HOPE (844.666.4673)
IN IOWA: Call 844.PMD.HOPE (844.763.4673)
Kerrie Van Weelden, LMSW (pictured, right, with WOTV’s Maranda), is a clinician social worker in the Pine Rest Mother and Baby Program.