HCMC supports mom, infant mental health

An outpatient program at Hennepin County Medical Center opens Monday to help pregnant women and new mothers who are experiencing mental health problems.

The Mother Baby Program is the first of its kind in Minnesota. It encourages mothers to bring their babies with them when receiving care to help improve the relationship.

Dr. Helen Kim, a psychiatrist and the program's medical director, said providers need to think about the child when caring for mothers experiencing anxiety and depression.

"The child's best hope is an empowered and healthy mother," Kim said. "The more we, kind of, keep kids in mind and really broaden how we approach the adults that we see, I think the healthier that next generation is going to be."

The program is modeled after one at Brown University in Rhode Island. HCMC will see up to nine women at a time. Each patient will spend an average of three weeks in the program.

Kim said research has shown that the relationship between an infant and his or her caregiver is an important part of the child's healthy brain development.

"Women are encouraged to bring their babies, if they have them, to really focus on the stresses and the challenges of being a parent but also just the challenges of connecting with a baby when you yourself are struggling," Kim said.

The program also includes a phone line to help families experiencing mental health symptoms.

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