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Healthy Moms, Healthier Babies

By U’nek Clarke, Lead Perinatal Behavioral Health Specialist at Children’s National
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There’s an unspoken bond between new mothers and care providers who create spaces where women, especially those experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, can be vulnerable and trusting. Moms want to talk about their experiences, their health and their babies. Perinatal mental healthcare is my passion and my work through the DC Mother-Baby Wellness Initiative within Children’s Developing Brain Institute. Everything starts with maternal mental health. The healthier the mom, the healthier the child.

Our wraparound support includes screenings to evaluate physical health, mental health and health education for moms and babies until the child turns 3. In addition to therapy, we might guide a family to the food or housing they need, help a victim of domestic abuse get to a safe place or provide counseling around grief and loss. I work alongside pediatricians in the office and collaborate with other departments at Children’s National if a child needs specialty care. For the moms, there’s comfort and empowerment in knowing that we’re going to make sure they’re OK for years to come. We help them build better foundations for their families. I’m also proud that my work with Dr. Catherine Limperopoulos is helping drive innovative research that will shape best practices for tomorrow.

I recently worked with a mom who needed help reframing her own childhood experiences to improve her relationship with her children and new baby. Her own depression and anxiety were impacting the whole family. Now she’s healing and creating better relationships. She’s even improved her bond with her own mother by having conversations about her childhood. It’s multi-generational work and has the power to change the whole family dynamic. When we help moms, we help generations to come.