Living Proof of Caring For Women At Risk of Postpartum Depression
Steven D’Achille knows that his wife would have loved to see their daughter Adriana at age 3. Sadly, Adriana is growing up without her mother, Alexis, who was lost to postpartum depression, when Adriana was just a few weeks old.
Steven started a foundation in his wife’s name to spread awareness of postpartum depression and expand access to treatment. Teaming up with Allegheny Health Network (AHN), they have expanded AHN’s ability to screen and treat women for postpartum depression, which can affect up to 20 percent of women for up to a year after giving birth.
Steven and his foundation are living proof of how community support can help new mothers regain their emotional health and be there for their children. The foundation helps women and their families spot warning signs, and provides resources to expand mental health care.
“Steven’s story inspired us to improve care for women with depression during pregnancy and after delivery,” said Sarah Homitsky, MD, psychiatrist and medical director of the women’s behavioral health center.
In 2015, the Foundation awarded $100,000 to AHN. Now, AHN’s women’s behavioral health center is helping more women get treated for postpartum depression.
They have used this money to create an intensive, outpatient program for women suffering with depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
AHN has a telemedicine program to immediately assess women identified by their obstetrician or other doctor as having symptoms of postpartum depression. Women identified are immediately seen in their doctors’ offices via a video-conferencing program by a psychologist. They are then referred for treatment, which can include medication, outpatient, or inpatient care.
Homitsky explained that the center’s professional vision fits well with the goals of the Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation. The first step is to improve the depression or mood disorder screening process. Then women are identified and invited to come in for treatment.
The program focuses on improving mother-baby attachment. Staff members:
- Invite mothers to bring their babies, as well as other family members, to appointments
- Talk to families about the broad-reaching impact of depression
- Discuss the potential negative impact on a mom’s ability to relate to her child
- Work with mothers to manage their stress, and improve problem-solving and communication skills
“Sometimes crying or feeling sad can be part of typical changes that come after delivery, but if these emotions start to affect a mother’s ability to care for herself or her child or last longer than two weeks, she should talk to her doctor,” she said.
More than 260 patients have been referred to AHN for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders since the program began in July 2015.
The program is now expanding to:
- Introduce dual screening for depression and bipolar disorder at all AHN associated OBGYN practices
- Conduct comprehensive initial evaluations, developing treatment plans that incorporate therapy, medication as needed, and connect to community resources.
“Our goals are to effectively screen women for mood and anxiety disorders and connect them to the right treatment,” said Dr. Homitsky.
While it is impossible to predict who will develop it, women seem to be more likely to get postpartum depression if they have:
- Personal or family history of depression or bipolar disorder
- Recent stressful life events
- Inadequate social support
- Marital problems
If you are pregnant and have a history of depression, talk to your doctor about monitoring your symptoms during pregnancy and after delivery.
For more of Steven’s story, go to www.ahn.org/livingproof. For additional information about the Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation for Postpartum Depression, go to https://www.alexisjoyfoundation.org. More information about AHN’s postpartum care, go to www.ahn.org/specialties/womens-health/postpartum-depression.