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Inpatient Mood Treatment Program for New or Expectant Mothers Opens at El Camino Hospital

Mountain View, CA - July 26, 2012 - El Camino Hospital announces the opening of one of only two inpatient programs in the nation designed to treat women experiencing significant mood changes or anxiety symptoms during or after pregnancy.

Although the hospital has offered an outpatient mood treatment program for the past four years (known as Maternal Outreach Mood Services or MOMS), the new Perinatal/Postpartum Mood Treatment Program is the hospital’s first effort to create an inpatient program focused on this condition.

"This population has traditionally been underserved. Roughly 15 percent of women who go through pregnancy develop significant psychiatric issues related to pregnancy," explains Michael Fitzgerald, director of the Behavioral Health Program at El Camino Hospital. "This is more than the baby blues. Not all of these women need to be hospitalized, of course, but they do need our help."

It's long been known that women have mood changes during pregnancy, especially after delivery. These mood swings can be due to individual responses to changes in hormone levels, or to non-hormonal factors such as lack of sleep, having little time for oneself, body changes, relationship changes and worries about parenthood. While some feelings of anxiety, irritation and sadness are minor and short-lived, in other situations these feelings persist or worsen during and after pregnancy.

Women with prior episodes of anxiety or depression are most at risk, as are those with a family history of mental illness. Very young mothers, those with substance abuse concerns, those with limited family or financial support, and those feeling uncertain about their pregnancy are also at higher risk.  A perinatal mood condition can also occur without any of these risk factors being in place.

"With this new inpatient program, we’re also hoping to catch women at significant risk earlier in the process, and hopefully prevent a tragic outcome," continues Fitzgerald. "We’ve noticed with our outpatient program that sometimes women wait a long time to seek help. By the time they come to us, some have had disturbing thoughts for some time."

The goals of the mood program are to reduce risk and restore wellness by offering meaningful treatment and support for women. The program includes specialized groups addressing the specific needs of perinatal/postpartum women, expanded family visiting times and a separate patient lounge, family involvement through meetings and education, linkage with outpatient services for improved transition, and use of unique services such as biofeedback, infant bonding and mindfulness training.

The inpatient program is located within the behavioral health unit, with four dedicated patient beds and a separate patient lounge/treatment room. It was modeled after an existing program at the University of North Carolina, which is currently the only other inpatient perinatal/postpartum mood treatment program in the nation. Psychiatrist Nirmaljit Kaur Dhami, M.D., who specializes in the treatment of women with these disorders, serves as medical director.

Anyone interested in contacting the Inpatient Perinatal/Postpartum Mood Treatment Program may call 650-940-7291.