With a mission to support families by strengthening the emotional health and parenting capacity of mothers, Hennepin County Medical Center’s (HCMC) Mother-Baby Program combines outpatient psychiatry services; a HopeLine triage and resource line; and a Day Hospital for pregnant women and mothers experiencing depression, anxiety or other emotional distress to offer support, hope and healing to mothers and families. HCMC supports the Mother-Baby Program by providing all its infrastructure costs, approximately $125,000 per year.
“Debilitating depression and anxiety can begin during or after pregnancy and can affect about one out of eight women,” said Dr. Helen Kim, medical director of the Mother-Baby Program. “Left untreated, perinatal psychiatric disorders can have negative effects on both maternal well-being and child development.”
The Mother-Baby Program’s Day Hospital was the first of its kind in Minnesota – and is only the fourth in the nation – to support moms with perinatal psychiatric disorders adjust to having a new baby in a structured day hospital model. The intensive outpatient mental health treatment program offers help for pregnant women and mothers of young children who are experiencing symptoms that make it difficult to function at home or at work, take care of themselves or their baby, or bond and connect with their baby.
The Day Hospital has seen dramatic success in helping moms get the support they need while bonding with their babies. Since opening in 2013, almost 200 pregnant and postpartum women with moderate to severe psychiatric illness have graduated from the program. This is encouraging news for families in the community – and it speaks to the program’s successful, nurturing approach to treatment.
“To support healthy brain development, babies and young children need to feel safe and secure in their relationship with their primary caregiver,” said Kim. “We emphasize this important connection, and it’s one of the reasons why mothers with babies younger than one year old are encouraged to bring their baby with them to the Day Hospital.”
Kim reported that participants screened before and after graduation showed statistically significant improvements in depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and maternal functioning. In addition, outcomes assessing the parent-child relationship also showed statistically significant improvements in mothers’ perception of their babies and their relationship with their babies.
“Improving mother-baby bonding leads to short- and long-term benefits for both moms and babies,” said Kim. “We serve as an upstream intervention aimed at improving developmental outcomes for young children by helping their moms provide the attuned, consistent and nurturing care developing babies need to thrive.”