According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in eight women experience postpartum depression. Despite their suffering, many new mothers do not seek treatment, says Pamela Geller, PhD, associate professor of psychology and research associate professor of OB/GYN in the College of Medicine.
“[This is] due to limited recognition of the severity of their symptoms, limited options for specialized care, and the stigma surrounding their condition,” she says.
Drexel University’s new Mother-Baby Connections program provides a safe space for new mothers to obtain holistic care at Parkway Health & Wellness in Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. The program offers individual, couples and mother-baby therapy sessions, as well as group therapy sessions for women to share their experiences with other new mothers.
Founded by Geller and Bobbie Posmontier, PhD, CNM, PMHNP-BC, associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions — and in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson School of Nursing’s June Horowitz, PhD, RN, CNS-BC, FAAN (now at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), and Drexel CNHP faculty Lisa Chiarello, PT, PhD, PCS, FAPTA, and Ting Liu, PhD — Mother-Baby Connections serves pregnant and postpartum women experiencing depression and anxiety up to one year after childbirth.
The clinic provides patients with four to 12 weeks of intensive therapy (shorter than traditional treatment programs), allowing mothers to feel better faster before resuming therapy at their own pace.
Based on clinical models in Europe, Canada and other countries, Mother-Baby Connections is the only intensive outpatient clinic of its kind in the mid- Atlantic region, and just one of a handful in the U.S. The program focuses on a woman’s transitional role to becoming a mother, interpersonal communication, mental health symptoms and social isolation. And unlike other postpartum programs, Mother-Baby Connections uses an attachment-based model in which mothers are encouraged to bring their baby and partner with them to therapy, allowing them to improve their relationships and attachment bonds with their partner, child and family as a whole.
“We believe that healing from postpartum depression will be more effective when the woman, infant and family are involved in the therapy,” says Posmontier.
Mother-Baby Connections goes beyond traditional treatment, offering creative arts therapies (including dance, art and yoga), mother-baby interaction therapy, cognitive behavioral treatment, and other evidence-based approaches including couples counseling.
Geller, Posmontier and Horowitz hope to use the research from the clinic to better understand postpartum depression.
“We can look at behavioral markers like impaired mother- infant interactions and reports of depressive symptoms, but we don’t yet have an objective, physiological marker to say that a woman has postpartum depression and to measure whether she is getting better,” says Geller.
The co-founders are working with Meltem Izzetoglu, PhD, from Drexel’s Biomedical Engineering program to develop a neurological marker to objectively determine the presence of postpartum depression and impaired mother-infant interaction, and to monitor treatment progress. They’re also working with a number of multidisciplinary graduate and postdoctoral students, with the goal of training new mental health care professionals through experiential learning.
Those interested in the Mother-Baby Connections program can contact co-directors Pamela Geller (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Bobbie Posmontier (email@example.com), or call Mother-Baby Connections at 267.282.1455.