New parents arrive with their children just days after they are born, and will often return as often as 13 times in the first year. All caregivers are important to the long term well-being of the child; however, there is one person whose care pediatricians should be noting: Mom’s. By caretaking the bond between the new parent and child, pediatricians can introduce healthy lifestyles that will benefit the patient and family for years to come, and create a medical home that moms will want to return to.
Screening for Depression
According to a March 2019 study by the Pew Research Center, moms are the parent most likely to devote more time to childcare, and nearly a quarter of U.S. moms are single parents. While up to 50% of women suffer from “baby blues” after delivery, 10 to 20% will suffer perinatal or postpartum depression, with more severe symptoms that could prevent the mother from bonding or caring for her infant.
The AAP recommends screening for maternal depression at the 1, 2, 4, and 6-month well-baby visits. The January 2019 study states: “Depression in a parent is known to have a profound effect on infants and other children in the family. A growing understanding of early brain development reveals the ecobiodevelopmental factors that determine lifelong physical and mental health. In fact, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PPD is one of the most common adverse childhood experiences that are associated with the costliest adverse adult health outcomes.”
The AAP has screening tools available for maternal depression. And yes, screening for maternal depression is covered under the child’s Medicaid plan. Unsure how else to refer or treat adult patients with postpartum depression? See our post on integration to learn about collecting resources at your practice for behavioral and mental health.
While anecdotes about the ease of parenting the second child opposed to the first are common in adult circles, even experienced parents can be left grappling for answers if their subsequent children have different temperaments or disabilities their older children do not.
Millennial parents’ habits are to turn to a multitude of sources both online and off. Your practice can provide trusted sources on troubling parental problems like nutrition needs, breastfeeding, or caring for children with autism. Kids Plus Pediatrics, centered in Pittsburgh, PA, for example, holds a sleep class that has proved to be popular with parents.
In-practice classes aren’t the only tool you can use to offer resources for moms looking to learn. You can create pages on your practice’s website, leading to better SEO and traffic to your practice’s main page, improving both parent satisfaction and marketing your practice to new families. Mothers may also appreciate the chance to meet online or in-person for a forum or group discussion on unique challenges, and the chance to simply to unwind with others who understand their journey.
For those practices who don’t have the time or physical space to accommodate large meetings, creating a locally-focused Facebook group may be a solution. Be aware that public Facebook pages should be moderated and rules put into place to keep the tone friendly and educational. Curating content such as videos, links, and questions keeps the conversation going and encourages parents to lean on both your practice and each other for support.
A 2018 study by Capital Group found that millennial parents are more likely (39%) to talk to children younger than 12 about money. With high-deductible insurance plans becoming more common, it’s important to moms and practices to have frank conversations about how to afford healthcare.
Financial wellness for moms could include resources you may already offer, such as payment options and resources for Medicaid families. However, have you considered that it’s a financial incentive to offer later hours? Single and working moms will be thrilled if they can visit your office after work or school, rather than gaining permission to leave early and lose wages or reputation. The same conveniences pair with telemedicine and easy access to your online portal.
With these resources to keep moms healthy, wealthy, and wise, your practice gains happier families, which means your patients benefit from households with less stress and a greater-than-ever incentive to keep visits regular. Remember -- while your patients are the first priority, the success of your business depends on their parents. To become a part of your medical home, they must trust that you can offer them the care and support that all parents truly need.
To learn more about Kids Plus Pediatrics and Dr. Todd Wolynn’s progress in making sleep classes a part of a modern practice, check out his discussion with PCC’s Chip Hart in their webinar, “How to Succeed as a 21st Century Physician”.