New, one-of-a-kind clinic cares for moms with postpartum disorders

Immediate treatment can often save a life. But what if the illness is hidden and affects a patient during, what’s supposed to be, one of the happiest stages of life?

Recognizing the potentially devastating impact of postpartum mood disorders, Mount Sinai Hospital is now offering a one-of-a-kind Urgent Care Clinic for new moms experiencing depression and anxiety after childbirth. As part of Canada’s largest academic obstetric, gynaecological and neonatal program, the clinic offers moms access to care the very day it’s needed. “For these illnesses, quick treatment is so important,” says Dr. Ariel Dalfen, who heads up the clinic. “Serious postpartum disorders not only affect the mom, but the baby too.”

Before, mothers were referred to a psychiatrist to receive care, sometimes waiting weeks for an appointment. Now, Social Worker Melissa Goldband meets with a patient immediately, which is followed up by an appointment with Dr. Dalfen. The result: a profoundly more positive patient experience.

Postpartum mental health issues are real medical problems with real solutions,” says Dr. Dalfen. “This clinic offers treatment and support, so moms can go on to enjoy all the joy to be had with their new baby and their new life.”

Up to 15 per cent of women develop a depressive illness during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. The disorders can range from postpartum blues to serious depression, anxiety or even postpartum psychosis — a far more rare, but serious illness. Women may try to hide the depression for a number of reasons, one being the assumption that the beginning of motherhood is supposed to be a happy time.

Dr. Dalfen and Goldband want these patients to know they are not alone, and that help is available. “It’s lovely to see patients receive needed support right away. They tell us it eases their initial anxiety,” says Goldband. “To me, the initiative speaks directly to patient-centred care.”

New mothers and family members should learn the risk factors for postpartum mental health issues, and become aware of what to look for should any symptoms arise. “I always try to encourage people to err on the side of over-reporting potential symptoms to their doctors, so that a health care professional can help judge whether intervention is required,” says Dr. Dalfen. “We often have a sense when something is wrong or beyond the normal range. It’s important to act on that and get help.”