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New Help for Moms with Postpartum Depression
By Bonnie Rochman, Parenting
An inpatient psychiatric unit specifically dedicated to women suffering perinatal (prenatal and postpartum) mood disorders opens and gets new moms the help they need.
hortly before last Mother’s Day, 28-year-old Lauren Meehan-Machos broke down in front of her startled husband. “This is more than I can handle,” she sobbed.
The typically confident and self-assured Cary, NC, mom — a former Miss New Hampshire — had felt overwhelmed and panicky since giving birth to her first child, Luke, two months prior. She’d obsessed so much about getting feedings and naps “right” that she stopped eating and sleeping herself. She cried continuously. She started throwing up.
Her doctor had prescribed medication for postpartum anxiety. But, she told her husband, the day before, she’d found herself at the wheel of her red Chevy Impala, rain falling in sheets from the sky, thinking, If I drive my car off the road, all this will go away.
“I was stunned,” recalls Kevin Machos. “She’d done a very good job of hiding what she was feeling.”
Immediately, Meehan-Machos’s obstetrician referred her to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). There, doctors had recently debuted a groundbreaking inpatient psychiatric unit, the first in the nation specifically tailored to women suffering perinatal (prenatal and postpartum) mood disorders. Unlike a general psychiatric unit, it offered:
- A core group of doctors specializing in perinatal issues
- Psychiatrists attuned to medications that wouldn’t harm a pregnancy or a nursing newborn
- An unusual policy of allowing children, even babies, on the ward during extended visiting hours
- Mom-only counseling focused on anxiety and bonding.
And though there were only six beds, one was available for her.