The first weeks of motherhood–with their constant breastfeeding struggles, sleepless nights, and unending diaper changes–can stress any mom out. That’s why Dr. Deanna Blanchard, MD, MPH and her colleagues have teamed up to help moms in a convenient and accessible place–the pediatrician’s office.
“No matter how many book you’ve read, nothing can quite prepare you for the transition to parenthood,” reads the website of Premier Pediatrics, home of The First Month program. Created to help new moms and dads ease into parenthood, The First Month assists parents in three key areas–feeding success, emotional wellness, and parenting fundamentals.
A team of pediatricians, obstetricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, CPR instructors, massage therapists, and pharmacists work together to give new parents the information and guidance they need.Healthy families start with healthy moms. @DrDeenaB & The First Month take care of families! Click To Tweet
I spoke with Dr. Blanchard to learn more about The First Month and its impact on new moms, and how Premier Pediatrics is making mental health care affordable for all families.
“Moms are spending more time at the pediatrician’s office than their OBGYN,” Dr. Blanchard says. “Everything’s accessible at the pediatrician’s.” A simple two question test–the PHQ2–helps Dr. Blanchard and her partner, Dr. Jon Sarnoff, determine if a mom should talk to someone. Since every mom who comes in with her baby is screened, there’s no stigma. No pressure. And, no expensive bills.
Small group support sessions, like “Motherhood and Selfhood” and “Beyond the Baby Blues” help women navigate the transition, and one on one meetings are available at a cost of $100 a session. The program also offers low cost referrals for outside help.
And it’s not just for moms. In the United States, one in four dads becomes depressed, so fathers are offered the PHQ2 questionnaire too. “Healthy families mean healthy kids.”
Dr. Blanchard’s personal experience with post partum anxiety after the birth of her second son in 2010 gives her insight into the fears and worries of moms. “I judged myself in ways I would have never done to any friend, family member or, heaven forbid, patient.” Her own struggles help her to recognize the signs in other moms. “These are our patients, our sisters, our friends. They feel like ‘someone understands. I’m not alone. ”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 to 20% of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. Although many moms experience postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis, not a lot of us are talking about it. Part of our reluctance to discuss our after baby issues stems from fear of judgment and the stigma surrounding mental health, which Dr. Blanchard suggests is historical. “During the late 1800s and early 1900s, women who suffered from postpartum mental illness were classified as having “hysteria,” from the Greek word hysteron, meaning womb.”
The simple screening process at Premier Pediatrics’ Brooklyn and Manhattan locations has helped several moms to get help–whether that means therapy with a professional or just talking to other moms. “We tell them if you’re okay, that’s okay. If you’re not, that’s okay too,” says Dr. Blanchard. “The feedback so far has been positive, there have been moms on our Facebook page saying they feel so much better.”
If you’re feeling down, depressed, hopeless, or have little interest or pleasure in doing things–there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Speak to your doctor, or the team at Premier Pediatrics at 917-715-0876.