The UNC Program
When postpartum depression symptoms are severe, women may be referred to an in-patient program. However, Meltzer-Brody says most in-patient psychiatric units are caring for patients with many different mental health problems. The women are separated from their babies and become frightened by the in-patient experience. So, in many instances, the “treatment” ends up making the women feel worse rather than better.
Administrators at UNC Chapel Hill recently opened the Perinatal Mood Disorders Inpatient Unit. Meltzer-Brody says it’s the first of its kind in the U.S., and it’s designed specifically for women with postpartum depression. The unit has hospital grade lactation equipment (for breastfeeding moms who want to save their milk) and refrigerators. Doctors also keep up with medication guidelines to ensure the drugs they prescribe are safe for women who are breastfeeding. There are extended visiting hours for the babies so moms have bonding time with their infants. The rooms have a glider for comfort and rest. Patients are offered psychotherapy, group therapy, family therapy, biofeedback and relaxation therapy.
Meltzer-Brody says the length of stay depends upon the severity of a patient’s symptoms and how much an insurance company will pay. Some women stay three to five days, while others remain for two weeks or longer. Meltzer-Brody cautions that postpartum depression is not a condition that can be cured with a few weeks of treatment. Patients typically need follow-up therapy for some time after leaving the hospital.
All of the clinics affiliated with UNC now screen women for signs of postpartum depression. The program is open to women from anywhere in the country, as long as they have insurance coverage or are willing to pay the costs of the program…