Why Perinatal Psychiatry?

Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering which specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Today's post is on why Dr. Haynes chose perinatal psychiatry and why it is a great field.

I found perinatal psychiatry almost by accident. I knew I enjoyed treating women and helping them through difficult times in their lives.


I started seeing more women in general and found pregnancy and postpartum were especially difficult for a lot of women. Gaining expertise in this field has been very rewarding and has helped me find my true passion in perinatal psychiatry.


What is perinatal psychiatry?


Perinatal psychiatry is a subspecialty of psychiatry. We specialize in psychiatric illness and medications before, during and after pregnancy. Psychiatric illness and pregnancy often go hand in hand. There are big hormone changes during fertility treatments, pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding and weaning which can be detrimental to mental health during these times. Having a better understanding of these hormone changes helps us have an in-depth discussion with the patient about what options are out there to help her reach her goals. I enjoy being a sub-specialist and truly being an expert in one specific topic.


We are often treating more than one patient.


Also with pregnancy and breastfeeding we are treating two patients. We understand the risks of untreated depression, anxiety, and psychosis on baby as well as the risks of exposing baby to medications. We take this very seriously and often recheck the data for any new safety or risk information during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I enjoy the challenge of keeping up with the literature and knowing a lot about this topic.


We really get to know our patients.


As psychiatrists, we often have the luxury of plenty of time with patients and are able to use this time in a meaningful way to understand our patients more in-depth. We get to know about their upbringing and how it informs their current worldview. We learn about their current lives and how they like to approach problem solving. The field is unique in that way and I truly enjoy this aspect of treating patients. One of the most rewarding experiences is hearing a patient express gratitude about feeling heard and understood.


You get to use skills outside of of the traditional physician role.


I enjoy taking a whole family approach to treating the problem at hand. This may mean we start therapy with a woman or discuss her care with her current therapist. I may refer to a lactation consultant to reduce anxiety around breastfeeding, or even use my experience as a physician and mother to help her with reasonable solutions to her problem. We often bring a spouse into the picture to help them help our patients. I often help a family identify ways they can all work together to get mom more sleep and improve her health. Some appointments may involve spending time assessing social supports and ways to engage these supports so mom can have some time to relax, exercise, sleep, or otherwise take care of herself.


You get to help someone through one of the most difficult times in their life.


When psychiatric illness is present during the perinatal period, women can experience profound anhedonia and really miss out on a lot of the joy surrounding pregnancy and postpartum. A lot of women describe their depressive episode as “robbing them” of this period. When women feel better, they are so thankful you have guided them in making changes to bring this joy back.


Perinatal psychiatry is incredibly rewarding.


Perinatal psychiatry is a wonderfully rewarding field. I enjoy having a niche which is challenging and engaging both with patient care and staying up-to-date with the literature.


If you’re someone who enjoys working with women you may want to consider perinatal psychiatry. It is an incredibly rewarding field which is constantly evolving. It allows for deep connection and continuity with patients. A lot of women are so appreciative of the care they receive and truly every day is interesting!


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