CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody as Samantha Meltzer. Additionally, it did not include that she is the principal investigator on the brexanolone trials and first author on the paper. The article has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
UNC medical professionals are at the forefront of fighting perinatal depression in women with the UNC Perinatal Psychiatry Program of the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders.
The program was founded in 2004 by Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, the director of the UNC Perinatal Psychiatry Program. Meltzer-Brody serves as the director of the clinical and research aspects of the program, which helps identify and treat perinatal depression.
“There was a huge unmet need for reproductive mood disorders to be diagnosed and treated,” Meltzer-Brody said.
The program helps mothers who are struggling with perinatal mood or anxiety disorders. Meltzer-Brody said that during the perinatal stage, which is immediately before and after birth, women can experience low mood, ruminating thoughts or anxiety, loss of enjoyment, changes in appetite and suicidal ideation.
“Women's mood disorders in the perinatal period are considered one of the greatest medical complications of the perinatal period,” she said.
Consequently in 2011, Meltzer-Brody opened the Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit, a five-bed inpatient center for women suffering from severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts, one of the only programs of its kind in the country. The average stay is seven to 10 days. Dr. Mary Kimmel, a psychiatry professor, is the medical director for the perinatal psychiatry inpatient unit.
Kimmel does research on pregnant and postpartum women. Her research helps to identify symptoms of depression and treat those symptoms. She works with a team of occupational and recreational therapists, nurses and yoga specialists to improve perinatal mood and anxiety.
Part of Kimmel’s focus and concern is postpartum psychosis, which is depression or anxiety that occurs after birth. Kimmel said that medical professionals believe that 0.2 percent of women experience postpartum psychosis, but she believes that number is too low.