October 18 — PROVO — Emotional health is just as important as physical health after childbirth and all mothers who deliver at Utah Valley Hospital are now getting extra help with that side of the healing process.
Utah Valley is now screening 100 percent of the mothers who give birth at its facility for maternal emotional wellness. The screening assesses each woman’s emotional status and provides her with resources to cope with any immediate challenges or ones that may arise in the coming weeks.
In the six months since the hospital began screening all new moms, caregivers have identified significantly more women who need emotional care.
“We now catch one or two more cases a day of mothers who have signs of mental or emotional challenges because we’re performing this screening to all our mothers,” said Mildora Leerhoff, RN, manager of Mother/Baby at Utah Valley. “These issues affect women across all demographics and they don’t have to have any previous history of mental illness.”
One in seven women will experience emotional wellness issues after pregnancy. Those issues could include depression, anxiety, panic disorders and even psychosis.
Kelby Ellis, from Lehi, experienced postpartum depression and anxiety after delivering each of her five children. She described the moment she realized something was wrong after having her first baby, as frightening.
“Within a few days of coming home, I stopped eating and sleeping,” Ellis said. “I began having panic attacks and always wanted to get in my car and just drive away.”
Ellis said postpartum depression is very disheartening to mothers because it comes out of nowhere. She said it’s an illness that isn’t on many mothers’ radars because it’s a condition of childbirth that many people know little to nothing about.
“I think it is wonderful that Utah Valley Hospital is focusing on helping mothers know the signs of postpartum depression and other mental illnesses,” Ellis said. “The more awareness there is about emotional wellness, the easier it is to treat if mental illness signs appear, and the less impact it will have on the family, mother, and baby.”
In the past, caregivers at Utah Valley educated mothers on signs and symptoms to look for after going home and then instructed them to contact their doctor if they had any issues. Now that the new screening tool is in place, those with immediate needs get help from a licensed clinical social worker who also follows up with them after they’re discharged.
Each mother’s husband or other support person also receives information on maternal emotional wellness. This allows them to reassess the new mom’s emotional wellness together at home.
“We’re really giving moms and those who support them permission to take this seriously,” says Leerhoff.
American Fork Hospital and Orem Community Hospital are also planning to start screening 100 percent of the mothers who deliver at those facilities. The screening tool and education information will also be shared across the Intermountain system with the goal to help women across the state.
Emotional health is just as important as physical health after childbirth and all mothers who deliver at Utah Valley Hospital are now getting extra help with that side of the healing process.