One of the most persistent myths of motherhood is that it’s the happiest time in a woman’s life.

But for some, having a baby is a time of isolation, anxiety – even despair.

Hennepin Healthcare will soon provide a broader range of care to families struggling with the emotional and psychological challenges of pregnancy and parenting, thanks to the largest charitable donation in its 10-year history.

The $10 million gift, from the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation, expands the mental health services of Hennepin Healthcare’s Mother-Baby Program – the first in Minnesota – and creates the Redleaf Center for Family Healing, with a unique focus on families.

The center will be located on the Hennepin Healthcare campus in downtown Minneapolis. Groundbreaking is planned for this fall, with completion expected in 2020.

One in seven mothers experience depression and anxiety during the perinatal period: during and after pregnancy. Perinatal depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth – and can have life-threatening consequences that affect the whole family. Yet most American moms are discharged from the hospital within 24 to 48 hours of delivery, leaving them to fend for themselves and their helpless infants.

“We want every new parent to know that perinatal depression and anxiety are serious – but treatable – conditions. And that no one needs to suffer alone,” said Dr. Helen Kim, psychiatrist, co-founder and medical director of the Redleaf Center.

By focusing on early childhood brain development and mothers’ mental and emotional well-being, the Redleaf Center seeks to help parents heal from their own emotional wounds, so they can become the protective and supportive caregivers their children need. Through parent-child, integrative and resilience-promoting practices – and in partnership with communities most impacted by health inequities – the Redleaf Center aims to create a multigenerational model of healing.

“We are deeply grateful to the Redleafs for their transformational gift,” said Theresa Pesch, RN, president of Hennepin Healthcare Foundation. “The Redleafs believe that healthy moms are the heart of healthy families – and that healthy families build strong, stable communities for the benefit of all Minnesotans.”

“The perinatal period is a time of rapid brain development for babies,” said Kim. “And when mothers and fathers are struggling to cope, they can be less engaged and attuned to their infants, just when babies need them most – emotionally, physically and for cognitive development. At the same time, the birth of a baby is an incredibly hopeful time. By supporting parents during pregnancy and in the early years of their children’s lives, we are making a long-term investment in children and family well-being.”

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