In an era when many people are working incredibly hard to break the social stigma surrounding mental health, it’s not surprising to hear more and more of stories cropping up about postpartum depression. Lately, even celebs like Chrissy Teigen and Hayden Panettiere have opened up about their private PPD struggles, and their words have had an undeniable impact on mothers everywhere.
So when I heard about a new clinic that opened in New York — that caters specifically to mothers dealing with PPD — I got pretty darn excited.
It’s called the Motherhood Center of New York, located in New York City’s busy Manhattan borough. According to its website, the staff is made up of both social workers and physicians, who focus on the mental health of pregnant women and new moms who suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). It also hosts an array of classes, counseling sessions, and a day program for mothers who need a little bit more support.
The Motherhood Center is run by Program Director Paige Bellenbaum, who had experienced her own frightening episode of postpartum depression. Speaking with Fast Company earlier this week, Bellenbaum described a moment when her PPD was so acute that she had become “overwhelmed with the impulse to throw herself and her baby” under a bus that was passing by. As a trained social worker, she was surprised that she hadn’t recognized her own symptoms until that terrifying moment, and immediately sought help.
But as Bellenbaum tells Babble, the idea for the clinic was actually the brainchild of Dr. Catherine Birndorf, a reproductive psychiatrist, and Billy Ingram:
“I met Catherine many years ago and dragged her along with me to work on the New York State legislation and to participate in various conferences I arranged on raising PMAD awareness,” she explains. “When we met up [again] in 2015, she and Billy were about a year into planning the Center. I too had been planning a similar concept so we all joined forces to bring The Motherhood Center to fruition. Since my experience with PPD nearly 11 years ago, it’s been my dream to create a program that treats new and expecting moms that are suffering.”
Though it’s only been four weeks since the clinic first opened its doors to the public, the Motherhood Center has already seen over 40 women, fielded dozens of calls, and received nothing but positive feedback, according to Bellenbaum.
“Our mothers in the [program] say they can’t imagine what would have happened if we didn’t exist,” Bellenbaum tells Babble. “They are so thankful for our services and are on the road to recovery.”
Postpartum depression is a powerful and often times terrifying experience for women. According to PostpartumProgress.org, 11 to 20 percent of women who give birth each year have postpartum depression symptoms. And to put that in perspective, PP says to look at it this way: “If you settled on an average of 15 percent of four million live births in the U.S. annually, this would mean approximately 600,000 women get PPD each year in the United States alone.”
Those numbers are shocking, but they reveal just how common this sometimes debilitating mental health issue really is. The fact is, signs and symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can often look like other things, making them sometimes difficult to spot. According to Postpartum Education for Parents, the signs to look out for include: exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, tension, panic, irritability, hopelessness, tearfulness, poor concentration, memory loss, rapid mood swings, obsessions, frightening recurring thoughts, lack of enthusiasm, self doubt, low self-esteem, eating disturbances, feeling distanced/removed from or lack of love for your baby and/or partner, and thoughts of harming either yourself and/or your baby.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the Motherhood Center of New York is that the clinic operates independent of any hospital, which means that patients do not need a referral to get an appointment, so anyone can call at anytime. And not only that, but they are currently working on establishing a 501(c)3 non-profit status so they can provide free or reduced rates for low-income women who need these specialized services, but cannot afford them.
According to Bellenbaum, the plan right now is to solidify the New York City program, and then begin to open centers across the nation.
Can you imagine how amazing it would be to have similar programs dotting every corner of this country? It would mean mothers everywhere getting the support they need to be the best mothers they can be.
Mothers are fierce and amazing; don’t we owe it to them to help make their transition into motherhood as smooth as possible? The amazing staff at the Motherhood Center of New York sure thinks so. And I couldn’t agree more.