While it’s quite normal for new mothers to be tired and feel overwhelmed at times, major depression during the perinatal period can be devastating to the mother, her child and entire family if not effectively treated. Capital Regional Behavioral Health Center Outpatient Services now offers an Intensive Outpatient Program for Maternal Mental Health, the only one of its kind in the Tallahassee area.

The perinatal period is defined as pregnancy through the first year after giving birth. It’s estimated that ten to fifteen percent of women will suffer from some form of depression and anxiety during this period. A more severe illness, postpartum psychosis, is rare but still affects about 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. With the opening of this program, women and their families now have effective treatment available right here in the community.

The Maternal Mental Health Program offers services to women 18 and older who are diagnosed with depression, anxiety or psychosis. “These disorders include fear, anxious feelings, difficulty transitioning to the role of a mother, problems with attachment and bonding, especially if they’ve had issues before the birth,” said Chelsi Reinhard-Pender, program manager and primary counselor for maternal services. “Triggers can be hormonal or can come from frustration or complications with things like breastfeeding. Sometimes women stop taking depression or anxiety medication they were prescribed before the pregnancy because they are concerned about the health of their baby. But there are appropriate medications available that effectively treat the mother without any impact on the fetus.”

Reinhard-Pender said women bring their infants, up to six months old, with them as part of the treatment. “We work with the mothers and their infants on developing coping skills and bonding. Family counseling is also part of the program.” The program runs half-days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, providing nine hours a week in treatment. The treatment team includes a licensed therapist, a psychiatric nurse, the psychiatrist and other team members as needed. Medication management is provided through a physician.

“This program is appropriate for women who are struggling with their daily life including post-partum depression, crisis management, depression, severe anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, nightmares, flashbacks, unresolved grief and loss issues, relational conflict, mood swings, inability to sleep, appetite changes, trouble focusing or completing tasks and difficulties at work or school,” she said. “Getting the appropriate treatment, the earlier – the better, benefits the mother, the infant and the entire family.”

Capital Regional Behavioral Health Outpatient Services is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. To learn more about the Maternal Mental Health Intensive Outpatient Program, call (850) 325-5750 or visit CapitalRegionalMedicalCenter.com. If you have an emergency after hours, please contact the Behavioral Health Intake Department 24/7 at (850) 325-5757.