Mommy Wellness

Preview: important mental health numbers

Mainline Health Care Women’s Emotional Wellness Center 888-227-3898
Delaware County Professional Services 610-892-3800
Springfield Psychological 610-544-2110
Project Reach (Delaware County Mobile Crisis Unit) 855-889-7827
Suicide Prevention 800-273-TALK (8255)
MainLine Health Care Addictive Services 484-476-6543

When I enter an exam room and ask “how are you today?”, my question is directed at the caregiver as much as the infant, kid, or teen patient.  As a pediatrician, I care about my patients’ parents because the parents need to be well to care for their kids (2012 NYT article by my hero Dr. Perri Klass).  Sometimes caring is as easy as praising parents for the amazing job they do – patience and persistence with their special needs child, asking a question to clarify my plan, monitoring their kids’ screen time, frequently offering fruits and veggies despite protests and pouts.  But sometimes caring goes deeper and darker and picks up on subtle signs.

Parent 1 bursts into tears when I talk about how it is okay to let the baby cry.
Parent 2 gets into 2 minor car accidents with 9 month old baby aboard, all within 2 weeks.
Parent 3 asks a million questions about her 6 month old baby regarding completely benign behaviors that most parents wouldn’t think twice about.
Parent 4 tells me about how she is worried about her smiling baby at the restaurant, in the daycare, during play time, while the baby sleeps…

In all those cases, along with positive scores from a postpartum depression survey (Edinburgh), I probe further and find parents who are depressed, anxious, and/or just completely overwhelmed without any support. I refer to these parents to counseling services (see numbers above) and offer basic destress strategies (adapted from NIH):

  • Do something you enjoy every day.
  • Rest when the baby sleeps.
  • Be realistic (regarding normal behaviors, tantrums, ok to have messy house).
  • Ask for help (the saying it takes a village…).
  • Make time to be with other adults (date with partner, lunch with friends & family, going to a crowded place such as gym or mall, library story time; increases opportunity to build friendships – a village – with potential helpers too!).

Sometimes they knew they needed help but didn’t know where to turn, sometimes they were already considering therapy but didn’t know what number to call, sometimes they were looking for permission to call or do something for self-centered, or they are not interested and I will address their well being at the next visit.

So the next time the pediatrician asks “how are you today?” remember that the pediatrician wants an honest answer and may have resources to help.

Next blog post – how I keep it real and find balance.

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