Last year, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill opened the country’s first inpatient psychiatric unit for pregnant women and new mothers suffering from severe depression. Today, Time Healthland’s Bonnie Rochman profiles a former patient and offers a look at the breadth of services offered by the program:
There’s weekly therapy from psychologists who practice mother-infant attachment therapy, which works on how mom relates to her baby and reads her baby’s cues, and there’s partner-assisted psychotherapy, which helps dad understand how he can be most effective. Moms learn stress-management skills, practice yoga and participate in biofeedback sessions and mindfulness-based stress reduction groups. They have access to lactation consultants and hospital-grade breast pumps if they want to express milk. Coping skills and medication help get these moms back on track; counselors help connect departing mothers with hometown resources or transition them to outpatient programs.
The real attraction, however, is the camaraderie. “To be there with people who are going through the same thing is hugely important,” says [Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the perinatal psychiatry program at UNC and an associate professor of psychiatry].“You don’t feel alone.” For many women, being surrounded by others experiencing the same struggles is akin to opening the floodgates. “Everyone is in there because things are really not going well,” says Meltzer-Brody. “There is a rawness.”