Perinatal Mental Health
Perinatal mental health disorders are mental health problems that affect pregnant people and/or people within 1 year of giving birth. Perinatal mental disorders are common; 1 in 7 women will have symptoms of postpartum depression. Luckily, perinatal mental health disorders are treatable, and many people are able to return to their normal selves within a matter of weeks after starting treatment.
Many people experience the “baby blues” after they give birth, but when these feelings last longer than 2 weeks, you may meet criteria for a perinatal mental health disorder. Perinatal mental health problems are diverse, and include but are not limited to:
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, isolation, and/or inadequacy
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable or restless
- Emotion dysregulation
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
- Eating too little or too much
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Hearing or seeing things that other people can’t hear or see
- Having strange or unusual beliefs/thoughts
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with one’s baby
- Persistently doubting one’s ability to care for one’s baby
- Thinking about harming oneself or one’s baby
These symptoms can signal the need for specialized intervention. The UCLA Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) specializes in the assessment and treatment of a variety of psychological and developmental conditions and behaviors, including:
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Perinatal onset obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or birth trauma
- Emotion dysregulation (i.e., big emotion ups-and-downs that feel out of control)
- Perinatal psychosis
We are not an appropriate program for patients struggling primarily with substance use/addiction, whose mental health problems stem from infertility, or for those experiencing grief related to the loss of a pregnancy or infant.
Our program currently offers an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) level of care (12 hours/week).
The Perinatal IOP offers comprehensive mental health care to birthing persons who are either pregnant or within 1 year of delivery and are suffering from severe mental illness that is in need of a high level of care. Our IOP program offers groups, individual psychotherapy, and medication evaluation and management to perinatal patients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The program is approximately 3-4 hours each day, and most patients remain in the IOP program for 6-8 weeks. The capacity of our program is based on provider availability; currently, we are able to accept up to 8 patients at a time. At this time, we offer hybrid treatment – Tuesdays and Fridays are virtual over Zoom and Wednesdays are in-person. We anticipate returning to fully in-person for all 3 days in early 2023.
The care we provide is multidisciplinary – meaning that we work as a team to help our patients move towards their mental health goals. The team includes psychiatrists, social workers, nursing, and psychologists. Our programming helps our patients learn about various medication options for their mental health needs, learn coping skills for managing emotions, gain support from other new parents, work on developing a good social support network, and implement strategies to improve overall mind-body wellness.
Please click here to access our program brochure.
If you are struggling with perinatal mental health problems, but feel like IOP is too intensive, you may contact the Women’s Life Clinic at UCLA, which offers medication management for all reproductive mental health issues.
How to refer:
In order to be considered for admission to the Perinatal IOP, you must be referred by your provider – either a mental health professional (like a therapist or psychiatrist), your medical doctor (e.g., your OBGYN or primary care doctor), a midwife, or your infant’s pediatrician.
Please ask the referring provider to complete this form in order to submit the referral: https://uclahs.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_eXK6HI71Mket74G
Your provider may also complete the referral form by scanning this QR code:
Once the form is completed, a clinician will contact you directly to collect more information and perform an assessment. Please call our main office for further questions (310-825-4138).
Meet Our Team
Katherine Unverferth, MD, Medical Director
Katherine Unverferth MD is the Medical Director of the UCLA Maternal Mental Health Program, overseeing both the Perinatal Intensive Outpatient Program and the Perinatal Partial Hospitalization Program. She is the Co-Director of the UCLA Women’s Life Center, where she teaches residents and fellows Reproductive Psychiatry and helps run the clinic which serves pregnant and postpartum women throughout California. Dr. Unverferth was involved in the creation of the National Curriculum for Reproductive Psychiatry (NCRP). She co-created the module on Premenstrual Mood Symptoms for the NCRP, and co-authored a chapter on Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) which was published in the APA’s textbook, Treatment of Women. She has served as a peer reviewer in Reproductive Psychiatry for Current Psychiatry.
Dr. Unverferth received her BA in Chemistry from Duke University and her MD from Georgetown University School of Medicine. While at Georgetown, she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and received the Francis L. Clark, Jr. Award for Excellence in Psychiatry. She went on to complete her psychiatric residency at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience, where she served as Chief Resident of Reproductive Psychiatry. She then completed a Mood Disorders fellowship at UCLA. She has previously served on the board of the Southern California Psychiatric Society, and has received the President’s Award for her service.
Misty Richards, MS, MD, Attending Physician, Director of Infant Mental Health
Misty Richards, MD, MS is the Director of Infant Mental Health of the UCLA Maternal Mental Health Program. She is the Co-Founder and Medical Director of Perinatal Psychiatry for the Maternal Outpatient Mental health Services (MOMS) Clinic in the Department of OB-GYN, where she treats patients with perinatal mood disorders, anxiety, and psychosis while educating the next generation about reproductive psychiatry. She is a child, adult, and reproductive psychiatrist at UCLA who holds a joint appointment in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is double board-certified in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry and specializes in infant mental health, with recent completion of the NAPA Parent-Infant Mental Health Fellowship. Dr. Richards also serves as the Program Director for the UCLA Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and is highly involved in medical student education as a Core Faculty Educator in the Scientific Foundations of Medicine for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Dr. Richards graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology from UCLA, where her interest in perinatal mental health first began while conducting research studying pregnant mothers with anxiety and depression. For the next four years, Dr. Richards was a research fellow at the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, studying the pathophysiology of mood disorders. At Albany Medical College in New York, Dr. Richards obtained an M.S. in Neuroscience along with her medical degree and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in Medicine to Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Richards then completed her General Psychiatry Residency and Child Fellowship at the UCLA Semel Institute, where she served as Chief Fellow. Currently, she holds committee positions in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Women’s Committee), the Southern California Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association (selection committee for the APA/APAF Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship).
Brittany Booth, MD, MPH, Attending Physician
Brittany Booth MD, MPH is an attending psychiatrist in the UCLA Maternal Mental Health program. Dr. Booth graduated magna cum laude from Boston University and earned her medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. During medical school, she took a year off to complete a Master's in Public Health. She completed her psychiatry residency at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. During residency, she served as Chief Resident of the inpatient units at UCLA and as Chief Resident of Reproductive Psychiatry. Since graduating residency, Dr. Booth has received fellowship training in treatment-resistant mood disorders. In addition to working in the UCLA Maternal Mental Health program, she also practices in the community, with offices in Encino and Westlake Village.
Louise Dixon De Silva, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Care Coordinator
Louise Dixon De Silva, PhD is a Clinical Specialist who earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology for the University of California Los Angeles. She completed her APA-accredited internship at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System in Health Service Psychology and worked there as a postdoctoral fellow in Women’s Mental Health. Her clinical areas of expertise are in reproductive mental health, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for emotion dysregulation and other acute mental health problems.
Kelly Wilshusen, LCSW, Care Coordinator
Kelly Wilshusen is a licensed clinical social worker who earned her MSW from UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Prior to joining the Perinatal team, she worked at UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital's adult inpatient unit and prior to that, UCLA's emergency room as part of the psychiatric consult liaison team.
Pauline Andan, RN PMH-BC, Administrative Nurse I
Kimberly Lucio, Mental Health Practitioner