Treating Moms & Babies for 10 Years

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The innovative Mother & Baby Day Program opened at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in 2012. Only the second in the country at the time, the program offers hope for women struggling with depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum. These conditions are collectively known as Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) and are the number one complication of pregnancy and childbirth. During its first 10 years, over 1,700 women received treatment at the Mother & Baby Program.

The daily intensive treatment encourages women to bring their infants along to treatment, addressing issues of childcare arrangements, nursing and anxiety about leaving their infant that can be an obstacle to receiving care. Having both mother and child at the program also provides opportunities to work on mother-baby bonding issues that may be occurring.


When Rebekah became pregnant with her son four years ago, it was not the joy-filled journey she had hoped for. A previous miscarriage had filled her thoughts with fear and anxiety over the impending birth, and she was diagnosed with panic disorder during her sixth month of pregnancy. After an emergency cesarean section, she gave birth to a healthy son, but her emotional condition continued to deteriorate. She was unable to sleep and was consumed with dark and disturbing thoughts.

"I felt like I was in a torture chamber and began to have constant thoughts of ending my life," said Rebekah.

Before she found out about the Mother & Baby Program, the thought of being separated from her son initially kept Rebekah from seeking treatment.

"The fact I could bring my son with me was really a blessing. It made the experience more positive, rather than adding more trauma by being apart," she said. "I was also able to continue breast feeding, which was really important to me."


When Pine Rest began to collect data on patient outcomes that measured anxiety, depression and mother-baby bonding over a 22-month period, the results were exciting. Mothers experienced a large decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms, and average scores even suggested a remission of these symptoms by discharge.

Clients also reported clinically significant decreases in impaired mother-baby bonding, and maternal rejection, anger or anxiety towards their baby. For former client Mackenzie W., this was especially important.

"The Mother & Baby Program changed my life," shared Mackenzie, who went through treatment several years ago. "I learned how to interact with my baby and how to care for myself. I learned that both are OK and that I am still a priority while also nurturing my baby."

The positive influence of improving the mental wellbeing of a mother can extend to her baby as well.

"The results indicated that the Mother & Baby Program not only significantly improves maternal mental health, but also improves critical aspects of the mother-baby bond that has shown to have large impacts on the child's later development, including neurobiological, social, emotional and cognitive/development outcomes," said Evonne Edwards, PhD, a Pine Rest clinical psychologist who analyzed the patient outcomes data.


Many factors can increase the chance a woman will develop a PMAD, although sometimes a PMAD occurs without any risk factors present.

  • Personal of family history of PMAD, anxiety, depression, bipolar or any other psychiatric illness.
  • Perfectionist personality.
  • High expectations of motherhood.
  • Recent stressors: illness, divorce, move, job change, death, financial setback.
  • Lack of social support.
  • Complications with pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Traumatic labor and delivery.
  • Fussy, colicky, ill or high-need baby.
  • Reproductive losses: miscarriage, abortion, infertility.
  • Unplanned pregnancy.
  • Stressful relationship with significant other.
  • Mother of multiples.
  • Mother of infant(s) in NICU.
  • Thyroid imbalance.
  • Vitamin D deficiency.

Just as a woman can be proactive about the physical health of herself and her baby, she can also prepare during pregnancy to take care of her emotional and mental health. In addition, she can recruit a support person or team to help identify warning signs, identify and strengthen her resources, reduce or eliminate stress, and put health practices in place.


15-20% of women experience significant mood changes during or after pregnancy. PMADs can occur anytime during pregnancy and up to two years postpartum. They are different and more intense than the "baby blues" that many women experience in the weeks after birth of a baby.

Symptoms can feel overwhelming and include:

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Guilt.
  • Irritability.
  • Anger.
  • Difficulty sleeping and eating.
  • Feeling disconnected from one's baby.
  • Feelings of panic.
  • Experiencing frightening and intrusive thoughts.
  • Obsessive thoughts.


If you are experiencing these symptoms, know you are not alone.

Other people may say things that don't add up or aren't true. Trust yourself. Get help when you are experiencing symptoms that have lasted up to two weeks and affect your functioning, ability to complete daily tasks, and negatively affect relationships—including your baby. Get help today if you are experiencing symptoms where you don't feel safe, don't trust yourself or don't want to be by your baby.


Pine Rest clinicians are available 24/7 and can help you determine what level of care is appropriate for you or your loved one ... including a same-day appointment at their Psychiatric Urgent Care Center, inpatient treatment, the Mother & Baby Day Program or outpatient therapy.


Visit Pine Rest's website at pinerest.org/moms to learn more about PMAD and how you can support families struggling with a PMAD—whether it's you, a family you love, or families who need assistance to afford treatment.

Written by Karen Coy and Kris Brown, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

Courtesy of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

Photo Courtesy of GettyImages.


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