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World Maternal Mental Health Day: Spectrum Health using pilot program to check on moms quickly after birth

Telehealth allows doctors to check in two weeks after birth
Posted at 6:25 AM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 07:11:50-04

GRAND RAPIDS — After giving birth it's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed. Everything about your world just changed, emotion is expected, but if it persists and feels out of control, something more serious could be going on. 

No matter your age, race, or how many children you've had, doctors at Spectrum Health say postpartum depression doesn't discriminate. Today, May Fourth, is World Maternal Mental Health Day. After working with many families, a Spectrum Health nurse practitioner is pushing for earlier check-ins after birth, to make sure women aren't suffering in silence.

Alexandra Bratschie, certified nurse midwife and women's health nurse practitioner is a mother herself. She knows all too well how challenging motherhood can be.

"I remember crying all the time, and it was for no reason, but just a baby, you know, it just changes everything," said Bratschie.

So, she started a pilot program at Spectrum Health to check in with women quickly after birth, Bratschie said, "Different statistics, but one in seven, one in nine women are going to be diagnosed with postpartum depression or anxiety. So, it's, it's really common."

Telehealth allows her to talk to mothers from the comfort of their homes two weeks after giving birth.

"For newborns, right, they're born, we send them home, and they're seen within one a day, one to two days postpartum by their pediatrician. For most women, it's like, okay, we'll see you in six weeks. Good luck, right? And that just feels so disconnected," said Bratschie.

Those four weeks make a big difference for women who are struggling, ashamed, and behind on diagnosis. "And it's really important to catch it early. So, if we're not talking to women, for six weeks are missing a lot of opportunity to treat it earlier. And not really let women suffer," said Bratschie.

The good news is postpartum depression is very treatable, but it is different than the "baby blues." Bratschie explains, "I have had many, many women that I, we started medications. And we do that at two to three weeks, instead of, you know, six to eight weeks."

Don't be afraid to put the Mom guilt aside, your doctor needs to know how you really feel.

"They're sleeping all the time, or not sleeping at all. And then they can be, we can be confused, like, you can be angry, you know. There's a lot of symptoms that kind of go with it. We just think, oh, we're just going to be really sad, right? But there's a lot of symptoms that come with it," said Bratschie.

Not all treatment of postpartum depression requires medication, but in many of Bratschie's cases it does. Another piece of advice, just try to get back to a few things you enjoyed before baby. Taking a walk, grabbing coffee with a friend, a bubble bath, or reading a book.

"Even just women, I think they just want to, like talk to, you know, even if they're not struggling, they just want to share their story. And, you know, want someone to say, like, you're doing a good job."

The pilot program is open for women who are patients at the OBGYN residency practice at Spectrum Health.
Bratschie reminds all women to call their doctors when in doubt, they are always willing to listen.