Summer Safety: How to Treat Your Child’s Cuts and Scrapes

More outdoor playtime usually brings more cuts and scrapes for kids. Here are some tips from the experts at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on the best way to treat your child.

What’s the best way to treat a small cut or scrape?

If the wound is bleeding, keep the area elevated and apply pressure to the site with a clean cloth or gauze. Most minor wounds will stop bleeding in about 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to hold pressure until the bleeding stops.

After the bleeding stops, wash the wound with lots of water. Soaking the wound in water can be helpful if there is dirt or other debris in the wound. You can use mild soap to clean the wound but don’t use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide —they irritate the tissue in the wound, which causes pain.

After cleaning the wound, apply antibacterial ointment and cover it with a clean dressing.

How do I know if my child needs stitches?

Here are some examples of wounds that probably require stitches:

  • Cuts that go all the way through the skin
  • Cuts with visible fat (yellow) or muscle (dark red)
  • Cuts that are gaping open
  • Cuts longer than half an inch. Note that smaller cuts can often benefit from butterfly closures or skin glue

Your doctor can examine the wound and help decide the best way to close it.

What is the process for getting stitches?

Getting stitches can be scary for children, but there are many ways to make the experience easier. These include numbing the area, distracting and coaching the child, and giving medications to decrease the child’s anxiety or even help them sleep through the procedure.

There are two options for stitches: absorbable and non-absorbable sutures. Absorbable sutures don’t need to be removed. Non-absorbable sutures need to be removed; how long they stay in depends on where the wound is, so your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them taken out.

What other options will a doctor use to close a cut?

  • Skin glue is helpful for minor cuts. It is applied to the cut while the cut is held closed and allowed to dry. Skin glue is not as strong as stitches, so it is not good for cuts that are under tension from a nearby muscle. But when the cut can be appropriately closed with skin glue, the cosmetic result can be just as good as with stitches.
  • Butterfly closures are narrow adhesive strips that are placed across a cut to keep it closed. They are helpful for small cuts or areas over joints. They aren’t as strong as stitches and can fall off early. Stitches provide a strong closure for wounds and almost always stay in place until they are removed.
  • Staples are a fast way to close certain wounds. In children, they are used most often to close cuts on the scalp.

How soon does my child need to see their doctor for stitches?

While it’s ideal to close the wound as soon as possible after an injury, wounds up to 8 hours old can still be closed. Some wounds can be closed up to 24 hours after the injury.

How can I make my child’s scar less visible?

While your child’s skin won’t look exactly the same as it did before the injury, there are some steps you can take to make the scar less visible. Sunlight can make the scar turn dark, so protect the scar from the sun by covering it with a hat, clothing or sunscreen. You can also massage the scar or apply silicone scar sheets.

For more information, visit umm.edu/childrens.

To make an appointment at one of our locations, call 410-328-6749.

Summer Safety: How to Treat Your Child’s Sunburn

Pool time and outdoor play may increase your child’s chance for developing sunburn. Here are some tips from the experts at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on the best way to treat your child.

What causes sunburn?

Sunburn appears within 6 to 12 hours after the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Artificial light sources like sun lamps and tanning beds can also cause sunburns. The skin becomes red and painful, and swelling of the skin, tenderness and blisters can develop. Severe sunburn can also cause nausea, chills and malaise (“feeling sick”). The burned area remains red and painful for a few days. Later, peeling may occur as the skin heals.

What are the risks of sunburn?

Exposure to the sun can harm children even when they don’t get sunburn. Over the years, the effects of sun exposure build up and can lead to wrinkles, freckles, tough skin and even skin cancer later in life. Some medications and medical conditions can also make people more sensitive to sunlight. Since people get most of their sun exposure as children, it’s important to teach children sun safety early on so they can be protected from these problems in the future.

Sunlight contains both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays cause sunburn. However, UVA rays also cause damage in the long run, including skin cancer. Since tanning beds use UVA light, they aren’t healthy and should be avoided.

How is sunburn treated?

If your child has sunburn, he or she should stay out of the sun until the burn has healed completely. Once it’s healed, be sure your child is wearing sun protection, including sunscreen, before going out in the sun again.

You can control pain from sunburn by applying cool washcloths to the area. Over-the-counter sunburn sprays that contain numbing medications like benzocaine or lidocaine can help, although they may also cause irritation to the skin. You can give anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen by mouth to help with the pain. As the burn heals, apply a moisturizing lotion. Products that contain aloe vera can be helpful in soothing the skin.

How is sunburn prevented?

The sun doesn’t need to be shining brightly to be dangerous. Children can be exposed to UV rays even on foggy or hazy days, and exposure is greater at higher altitudes or when UV rays are reflected off of water, snow, sand, or other surfaces. UV rays are strongest when the sun is the most intense, so try to keep your child out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. Infants and young children can quickly develop serious sunburns.

Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Check the label to make sure the sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Since no sunscreen is waterproof, you may need to reapply sunscreen more frequently if your child is spending lots of time in the water.

Appropriate clothing is also important for sun protection, such as wide-brimmed hats and lightweight cotton clothes with long sleeves and pants.

Keep babies under six months of age out of the sun and in the shade as much as possible. Avoid sunscreen in babies less than six months old.

For more information, visit umm.edu/childrens.

To make an appointment at one of our locations, call 410-328-6749.

 

A Gift of Thanks – 3 Years (and 43 Surgeries) Later

Grant (second from right) with part of the STC team and his parents

Three years ago, Grant Harrison was in a horrific motorcycle crash.  It was a bright sunny day on the Eastern Shore when a large deer struck the motorcycle Grant was riding.  He was airlifted to UMMC’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center with multiple life threating injuries.

The fact that he is alive today is nothing short of astonishing. Grant had a fractured skull, severe traumatic brain injury, bleeding of the brain and severe injuries to his limbs.

Grant spent 58 days on the Neurotrauma Critical Care Unit, and has had 43 surgeries on his road to recovery.

Grant is a now a walking, talking (and hilarious) miracle.

Exactly three years after the accident, June 6, 2017, Grant, along with his mother and father, wanted to give thanks to the nurses and doctors at Shock Trauma who showed them extraordinary compassion and care throughout this life-altering experience.

They brought the Shock Trauma team a framed thank you letter, along with photos documenting Grant’s journey to recovery.  The gift is now hung along the walls of the Neurotrauma Critical Care Unit, right outside the Patient Family Waiting Area.

The Harrison Family hopes that families pacing those halls (like they did many times 3 years ago), will read the testimony and find hope and encouragement.

Read a portion of the family’s letter below:

“The doctors and nurses here not only care for the patient, but for you, the family as well. They will always hold a special place in our hearts for their kindness and compassion. We encourage you to listen well to them, as they will educate and guide you through this unexpected journey. The Trauma Survivor’s Network, a resource offered through the hospital, was also most helpful to us.”

Grant with TRU Nurse Christopher Wentker

 

An Interview with Orthopaedic Oncologist Dr. Vincent Ng

Dr. Vincent Ng is an orthopaedic oncologist with the University of Maryland Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center and an Assistant Professor or Orthopaedics with the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  Dr. Ng specializes in treating bone cancer and soft tissue sarcoma.  Below he answers common questions about orthopaedic oncology.

What is an orthopaedic oncologist? How do they differ from surgical oncologists?

“An orthopaedic oncologist specializes in bone and soft tissue tumors.  I treat any adult or pediatric patient with any bone or soft tissue tumor/lesion/mass, whether benign or malignant, whether it is originating from the bone or soft tissue itself or spread from another part of the body, regardless of how large or small, in the upper or lower extremities, pelvis or shoulder region.  I am often the first provider patients see when they find a concerning lump.  I can help direct their care in terms of imaging, biopsy, and referral to other providers like medical oncology and radiation oncology.

Surgical oncologists are general surgeons who tend to specialize in tumors of the organs within your abdominal cavity (pancreas, liver, colon, etc).”

What are cartilage tumors? Are they treatable?

“There is a definite spectrum of cartilage tumors and they can present in a variety of fashions.  We are seeing many patients with a variety of cartilage tumors.  Many are very small and benign, while some can be large and life-threatening.  Cartilage tumors can be challenging in diagnosis and treatment.

While tissue sample analysis can identify a lesion as a cartilage tumor and can separate the most aggressive tumors from the least aggressive ones, it is difficult to necessarily predict the future behavior based on this alone.  A comparison of the relationship between the tumor and normal bone on imaging can often be more helpful.  Whether the patient has pain is often helpful information as well.

Making careful treatment decisions for cartilage tumors (chondrosarcoma) can require a very subtle approach and it is important to have a team of radiologists, pathologists and surgeons that deal with a lot of cartilage tumors.  Sometimes cartilage tumors may be simply observed over time to make sure they remain stable while some may require very large and complex surgery to safely remove them.”

How can surgery help treat tumors in the pelvis?

“Surgical management of tumors affecting the pelvic bones is one of the most challenging areas of orthopaedic oncology.  Because of the complex anatomy associated with this region of the body, successfully removing malignant tumors from the pelvis requires a surgeon with extensive knowledge of the critical structures and how they work together.

It requires a large team to do these operations, from anesthesia and interventional radiology to the ICU and physical therapists, dozens of dedicated healthcare providers are essential to the success of the patient.

Personally, I enjoy these surgeries and have been blessed to have trained at two cancer centers with a high volume of pelvic operations and excellent surgeon mentors.  By the nature of University of Maryland being a tertiary referral center, we see many patients with pelvic tumors, some of which can be managed with radiation for which we have the new Maryland Proton Treatment Center, and some of which benefit from surgery.  The road to recovery for these patients can be long, but with rehab and a positive attitude, they often do well.  As a surgeon, seeing them succeed is one of the most rewarding parts of this profession.”

What are some misconceptions about soft tissue sarcoma?

“Soft tissue sarcoma is a life-threatening condition and I believe strongly that it needs to be addressed swiftly and aggressively.  Part of our job is educating non-oncologic physicians that any soft tissue mass could potentially be a soft tissue sarcoma and should be evaluated to avoid missing, and therefore delaying treatment for, a soft tissue sarcoma.

When the soft tissue sarcoma is localized (only in one location, the original location) and has not spread to other parts of the body, it is curable in many instances.  Treating it with radiation and surgery before it has a chance to send microscopic cells to other parts of the body is important.  It is hard to predict when a tumor will release these cells elsewhere and they sometimes do not appear until many months or even years later.  We currently do not have an effective treatment for these cells once they have spread and established themselves elsewhere in the body.  This is one of the areas that we are examining in a clinical immunotherapy trial, NEXIS, which I have designed.  If it is successful, it has the potential to help many soft tissue sarcoma patients.”

Explain the challenges of treating Ewing sarcoma.

“Ewing sarcoma often presents in a delayed fashion and can be missed by non-oncologic practitioners.  It affects children and teenagers and is truly a life-threatening condition.  Luckily, we have strong chemotherapy regimens that can usually cure the disease, particularly in younger patients.  Successfully treating Ewing sarcoma is a very long process with many weeks of chemotherapy.  Because it can occur in any part of the body, but oftentimes in the pelvis or major bones of the limbs, surgery to remove the tumor can be quite extensive and the recovery from skeletal reconstruction can be prolonged.  Nevertheless, the most important thing is removing the cancer.  I am a strong believer in wide surgical margins and radiation when possible to eliminate the primary tumor and make sure it does not return.  The success rate of treating recurrent disease is suboptimal. You really only get one good chance to cure Ewing sarcoma.”

What’s new in the world of metastatic bone cancer?

“Patients are living longer and more productive lives even when diagnosed with metastatic and incurable disease.  When cancer spreads from one part of the body to the bone, our job as orthopaedic oncologists is to minimize its impact on patients’ lives.  While we cannot cure them of their original cancer, we can stabilize the bones with surgery to significantly reduce pain and prevent fractures where the cancer has eroded through the structural integrity of the bone.  Some types of metastases such as those from thyroid or kidney cancer may be better treated with a complete resection of the cancer rather than a palliative procedure.”

How is research playing a part in improving treatment options for bone and soft tissue cancer?

“Moving the needle forward, particularly in cancer research, requires a team approach.  Each person brings their own set of experiences, perspectives, and ideas to the table.  An effective leader must have a creative vision, an untiring spirit, and the ability to think outside the box in order to solve a variety of challenges.  Here at University of Maryland, we hope to parlay the success of immunotherapy in other areas of oncology to soft tissue sarcoma in the NEXIS trial.  It is the first neoadjuvant checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy trial that adds the potential benefit of combination immunotherapy to the existing standard of care for soft tissue sarcoma.  On a preclinical level, we are looking for potential treatments in the future with retinoic acid and chondrosarcoma, and new targeted therapy combinations for osteosarcoma.  The opportunity for me to collaborate as a clinician with these scientists is one of the advantages of working at a large University with many PhD’s and award-winning researchers.”

To learn more about UMGCCC’s Bone Cancer and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Service, please click here, or call 410-448-6400.

Mothers and Substance Use

By Christopher Welsh, MD

Women have some unique challenges when it comes to alcohol, tobacco and drug use and misuse. These differences are based on both biology and culturally defined expectations of women. Hormonal changes, the menstrual cycle, fertility issues, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause can all impact a woman’s use of substances. Women often use smaller amounts of a substance for shorter amounts of time before developing a problem. They also may have greater physical problems from their substance misuse.

Alcohol, tobacco and drug use during pregnancy can present significant problems for both the mother and the fetus/baby. Different substances can increase the chances of:

  • miscarriage,
  • stillbirth,
  • premature birth,
  • small head size,
  • low birth weight, and
  • delayed physical and brain development.

When a woman uses substances – especially opioid pain killers, sedatives and alcohol – during pregnancy, the baby may go through withdrawal after birth. This condition is often called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Although it can be hard for anyone with a substance use disorder to stop, women, in particular, may be afraid to get help during or after pregnancy due to concerns over possible legal or social services involvement. Issues related to child care also make it harder for women to get treatment.

If you have a problem with substance misuse, it is important to get help. Counseling and medications can be very helpful, as FDA-approved medicines do exist to help with addiction to opioids, alcohol and tobacco.

Call the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Outpatient Addictions Treatment Services (OATS) at 410-328-6600. The program even has a play center where children are watched while you participate in counseling.

Dr. Welsh is the medical director of Substance Abuse Consultation Service and medical director of the Comprehensive Recovery Program at University of Maryland Medical Center, and an associate professor of psychiatry at University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Physical Fitness and Sports Month: Commonly Asked Questions About Sports Injuries with Dr. Packer

Dr. Jonathan Packer is an orthopaedic surgeon with the University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics and an Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  Dr. Packer specializes in sports medicine and is a Team Physician with the University of Maryland Terrapins.  Below he answers common questions about sports injuries.

What are the most common sports-related injuries you see in your clinic?

The most common sports related injuries are ankle sprains and contusions.  The most common knee injuries that I see are meniscus tears and knee ligament injuries, such as the MCL (meniscus collateral ligament) and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

What can an athlete do after an injury to recover quicker?

The treatment depends on the specific injury and the severity of the injury.  The athlete should have the injury evaluated by the team Athletic Trainer, who can then determine whether the injury requires an evaluation by a physician.  Low grade injuries typically respond well to rest and different treatments to reduce the inflammation (elevation, ice, anti-inflammatory medications – i.e. Ibuprofen or Naproxen).

Why should an athlete use ice and not heat on an injury? 

The initial treatment goals after an acute injury (first 48 hours) are to reduce inflammation and swelling.  Cryotherapy, such as ice, is an effective method of reducing the swelling and bleeding into the tissues.  Heat is used for chronic injuries to relax and loosen tissues and to increase blood flow to the area, typically before participating in sports.

Can an athlete play with a cast or brace? 

It depends on the injury and the sport.  Athletes are frequently cleared to play with either a cast or a brace.  Your sports medicine physician will be able to make the decision whether or not it is safe to play with a cast / brace or not given your injury and sport.

When does an athlete need to see a physician? 

If the athlete’s team has an Athletic Trainer, s/he should evaluate the athlete and determine whether a referral to a physician is necessary.  In general, if the injury is accompanied with a “pop” or if a joint has a large amount of swelling, then it is concerning for a more serious injury that should be evaluated by a physician.  Other reasons to see a physician are joint instability and failure to improve with rest and anti-inflammatory treatments.

How can sports injuries be prevented?  

Sports injuries are best prevented by a dedicated prevention program that would ideally start at least 6 weeks before the start of the season. The prevention programs should focus on flexibility, muscle coordination and strengthening, neuromuscular control, plyometrics, body mechanics, and proper landing techniques.  The prevention programs are especially important for preventing ACL tears and have been shown to reduce non-contact ACL tears by up to 80%.  There are many different prevention programs that can be found online.  Two of the most well-known and established programs are the Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) Program and the Knee Injury Prevention Program (KIPP).  Athletes and their coaches can find these programs online here and here.

Why should athletes choose University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics to diagnose and treat their sports injuries?  

The University of Maryland has many physicians that specialize in Sports Medicine and treat all types of sports injuries. If at all possible, we will try to get you back to your sport without surgery. However, if surgery is necessary, we have the expertise to treat even the most complex injuries. The Sports Medicine team has extensive experience and are the team physicians for 12 high schools and for the University of Maryland Terrapins.

To make an appointment or to learn more about the University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics sports medicine specialists, call 410-448-6400, or visit their website.

3 Things to Know about Mother-Child Relationships

By Sarah Edwards, DO

  1. Healthy moms = healthy children and families. Healthy moms are essential to building children’s healthy brains and helping everyone in the family grow well and love well. Maternal depression, anxiety and stress can affect how a mother interacts and develops a relationship with her baby. Babies need a safe and stable connection with a caregiver for social, emotional and cognitive development. If this attachment is not strong, it can have lasting effects on a child’s brain, and puts children at risk for behavior and emotional problems.
  2. Family bonding is key to a healthy family. The good news is that there are effective ways to help caregivers bond with their children and promote a healthy relationship for the whole family. Finding joy in themselves and each other helps everyone feel loved and part of something important: their family.
  3. Help is available. If you have concerns about your relationship with your young child, contact the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Secure Starts Clinic at 410-328-3522 to make an appointment.

Dr. Edwards is the medical director of child and adolescent psychiatry services at University of Maryland Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry with the University of Maryland School of Medicine. For a consultation, call 410-328-3522.

The Love Blanket Project Spreads Love Around UMCH

Love comes in many shapes and sizes, but for Robin Chiddo it’s square, 44×44 and fuzzy.

Today, Robin from the Love Blanket Project dropped off 33 custom t-shirt blankets that will be given out to children staying at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.

The Love Blanket Project started in 2015 when Robin, who recently retired from her position as director of business development at the UMD Alumni Association at College Park, was looking for a heartfelt gift for her sister. In her research, Robin also wanted to find a company that had a clear, mission-driven purpose—then she came across Deaf Initiatives’ Keepsake Theme Quilts (KTQ).

Deaf Initiatives is an organization that employs deaf individuals and teaches employees how to run a small business in a deaf-friendly environment. Robin and her sister loved the first quilt they received, and she started the Love Blanket Project soon after.

Robin sends donated t-shirts to KTQ, and in 4-8 weeks, she receives beautifully crafted blankets. Each blanket is gift wrapped by Robin and the Love Blanket Project team, topped with a “have a comfy day” card and donated to hospitals across the state. The Love Blanket Project has donated to University of Maryland Children’s Hospital since the organization’s beginnings.

Myracle and her mom with a new Love Blanket

Robin has no trouble finding enough shirts—between the UMD bookstore, athletics department and generous donations from Corrigan Sports and Tough Mudder, the Love Blanket Project is swimming in shirts!

So, how can you help?

Robin is always looking for volunteers to help with fundraising. Each blanket costs $110 to produce, and all money to produce the blankets comes from fundraising and donations. If you want to get in touch with the Love Blanket Project, call 202-528-2208 or email loveblanketproject@gmail.com.

Shannon Joslin (left, Child Life Manager) and Robin Chiddo with one of past years’ blankets.

Going Above and Beyond to Ease the Stress of Blood & Marrow Transplant Patients

The facility where the stem cells are stored.

The Blood and Marrow Transplant unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center was presented with a challenge in housing recovering cancer patients at the beginning of March 2017. Usually, UMMC and the BMT unit use The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge to provide temporary housing for out-of-town BMT patients recovering from stem cell transplants. However, building construction began across the street from the Hope Lodge, making it unsafe for recovering BMT patients to stay there. Recovering from a stem cell transplant can be physically challenging, and construction debris and dirt could compromise patients’ recuperating immune systems, impeding the healing process.

This left Majbritt Jensen, a social worker at UMMC who oversees the psycho-social aspects of BMT treatment and recovery, concerned for her recovering cancer patients. Out-of-town patients must stay within an hour of UMMC to ensure that their recovery from their stem cell transplant was successful. Without discounted housing from the Hope Lodge, these patients would need to stay at a local hotel for at least 100 days. Not all insurance policies cover lodging expenses, meaning that many patients and their caretakers would be financially responsible. Jensen and her team knew that adding a financial burden to the patients and their families during this time could complicate and stress their recovery. So Jensen, along with Bob Mitchell, Associate Director for Administration, and Stan Whitbey, Vice President of Cancer Services, searched for a solution.

The solution they found was a generous grant from the Meizlesh Memorial Fund. This grant ensures that BMT patients can be housed at hotels in close proximity to UMMC. This will make it easier for the patients to be monitored during their recovery and visit the hospital if they experience any complications. Jensen attributes the success of receiving the grant money to the hard-working team surrounding her and the patients who inspire her.

“Everyone in our unit values life and treats everyone so kindly,” says Jensen. “And, I love being there for the patients and seeing them get well. Every day I am reminded of what really matters.”

Jensen also runs a support group that aims to connect current BMT patients with those who are in recovery.

For more information, visit the Bone and Marrow Transplant Service at UMGCCC.

Maternal Mental Health Matters

MAY 3, 2017 IS WORLD MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS DAY
#maternalMHmatters

Today is World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day, and we’re helping to bring attention to an important health issue and available treatment options.

Worldwide, as many as one in five women experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). PMADs include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder and others.

“There is still this myth that pregnancy is blissful and if you don’t enjoy pregnancy and having your baby, there’s something wrong with you,” says Patricia Widra, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at University of Maryland Medical Center.

“But fifteen to twenty percent of women have this experience, and there are ways to treat it.”

Because of the stigma that often surrounds mental health disorders, many women hide or downplay their symptoms. Not getting support or treatment can have a devastating impact on the woman affected as well as on her partner and family. It’s important to treat a PMAD like any other health problem so that families can thrive.

“Most people don’t realize it, but post-partum depression (PPD) is the most common serious complication after delivery,” says Dr. Widra.

Women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth often experience not only grief but also postpartum depression. In addition, giving birth to a premature child, or having a child spend extended time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can also take a toll on a mother’s mental health.

Why is PMAD so prevalent? “We don’t know,” says Dr. Widra. “Part of it is depression in women in this age group is already more prevalent than in men anyway, even without pregnancy. Pregnancy is a major change-of-life event. Sometimes a woman doesn’t have enough social or financial support or doesn’t have a partner. Hormonal changes also have an effect – this is where a lot of current research is focusing. Somehow these shifts seem to trigger PMADs. We don’t know specifically why it happens in some people and not others.”

Symptoms of PMAD can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth. The good news is there are effective and well-researched treatment options available to help women recover.

“It’s important that a woman is medically screened for a mood or anxiety disorder at least once during her pregnancy – preferably in the second or third trimester,” says Dr. Widra. “Just as we screen women for diabetes and thyroid disorders during pregnancy, it is just as critical to screen for mood and anxiety disorders. Currently this is not the standard of care. There is a lot of push federally and in Maryland to make it the standard.”

What you can do: If you are a new mom, be aware of how you’re feeling, and seek help if you’re experiencing symptoms of PMAD. If you know someone who is a new mom, ask her how she is really feeling and encourage her to seek help if she needs it.

“Some women think that because they’re discouraged from taking most medications during pregnancy that there isn’t anything their doctor can do to help with an anxiety or mood disorder,” says Dr. Widra. This is not the case. “We now have research to show that there are non-medical treatments that are evidence-based to help women with mental health problems during pregnancy. It’s also considered relatively safe to use some antidepressants during pregnancy.” The bottom line, says Dr. Widra, is there are effective medical and non-medical treatment options available to women even during pregnancy.

Life changes around pregnancy make women more vulnerable to mental illness. Mental healthcare provides the necessary support to empower women to identify resources and personal capabilities. This can enhance their resilience to difficult life circumstances and support them to nurture their children optimally. Caring for mothers is a positive intervention for long-term social development.

Here are some mental health tips for women during their reproductive years:

  • If you are feeling blue, anxious or depressed, don’t wait. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about it as soon as possible.
  • If you’re taking medications for a mood or anxiety disorder and you become pregnant, don’t stop taking them without talking to a mental health professional.
  • Eating well, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep are important during this period of your life as they are at any time in your life.
  • Do things that are good for brain health such as meditation and yoga.
  • If you have a history of depression, be proactive and aware of any signs and symptoms.

For more information or to make an appointment with a doctor who specializes in women’s emotional health and reproductive psychiatry, call 410-328-6091.