Since the early 2000s, awareness about maternal mental health issues has grown exponentially:
- Hundreds of articles and stories about maternal mental health have been featured in print and digital media and on radio and television.
A search on the blog “Motherly” in September 2019 included 150+ articles about maternal mental health challenges.
- Scores of books and academic articles about maternal mental health have been published.
A search on Amazon in January 2019 returned a list of over 100 books addressing postpartum depression, the majority published since 2010 (and almost 20 published in 2019).
- Two documentary movies, a full-length feature film, and several television series have addressed maternal mental health challenges.
Actress Brooke Shields – who wrote about her experience with postpartum depression in “Down Came the Rain” – was the executive producer of one of the documentaries.
- Celebrities and athletes who have experienced postpartum depression or anxiety have spoken publicly and shared their struggles on social media.
Celebrities who have spoken openly about their challenges include singer Adele, model and author Chrissy Tiegen, and tennis superstar Serena Williams.
- Families affected by maternal mental health challenges have launched non-profit organizations, websites, fundraisers, and awareness events.
Advocates and survivors have banded together to raise money to address maternal mental health and to educate elected officials through coalitions, task forces, and advocacy days at the local, state, and federal level.
MMHLA is committed to harnessing this energy and enthusiasm to create meaningful change at the federal level and to provide advice, guidance, and lessons learned to those at the state and local levels.
- 2019 – 2020: Proposed legislation. With increased public attention to maternal mortality, members of the United States Congress have introduced several bills to provide additional resources for new mothers and to strengthen government agencies in their work addressing maternal mortality. Learn more here.
- 2018: Federal funding. In 2018, the initial round of funding for Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act was released and the Department of Health and Human Services (through the Health Resources and Services Administration) announced a competitive grant process for the states. Thirty states and the District of Columbia applied for these grants; however, due to limited funding of $5 million, only seven states (Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were awarded grants to implement programs addressing maternal mental health. Read the HRSA announcement.
- 2016: Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act. In 2016, the United States Congress enacted the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. This law provides funding for programs addressing maternal mental health issues at the state level. Read the entire text of the law.
- 2010: The MOTHERS Act. In 2010, the United States Congress passed (but never funded) the MOTHER’S Act which called for research into the causes of and best treatments for postpartum depression, a public awareness campaign, a study on the benefits of screening for postpartum depression and psychosis, and a grant program to fund treatment services. While The MOTHERS Act was never funded, it nevertheless was historically significant as it introduced language about postpartum depression into the federal legislative record and garnered support and interest across political parties. Read the entire text of the law
- States requiring screening women for maternal mental health challenges include California, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
- States requiring educating healthcare providers and/or maternity patients include California, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
- States with public awareness campaigns include California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington.
- States that have Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day and/or Month include Arizona, California, Illinois, and Virginia.
- One state – Illinois – recognizes maternal mental health issues as a factor in criminal cases.
Several states (and the District of Columbia) have task forces addressing maternal mental health.
- Colorado: Colorado Maternal Mental Health Collaborative
- District of Columbia: DC Collaborative for Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care
- Maine: Maternal Mental Health Alliance of Maine
- Massachusetts: The Ellen Story Commission on Postpartum Depression
- Maryland: Task Force To Study Maternal Mental Health
- Oregon: Public Health Initiative for Perinatal Depression
- Utah: Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative
While mental health issues are the MOST COMMON complications of pregnancy and childbirth — affecting approximately 1 in 5 women during pregnancy or the first year after being pregnant – these illnesses are often undiagnosed and untreated.
A childbearing woman will see a healthcare provider an average of 30 times during a routine pregnancy and first year of baby’s life. However, no medical provider is required to screen her for mental health issues, and medical professionals often cite lack of knowledge, reimbursement, time, and resources for recovery as barriers to discussing these illnesses or screening for them.
The following national level medical organizations and governing bodies have issued statements encouraging medical providers to screen women for maternal mental health issues during pregnancy and after giving birth:
- American Academy of Pediatricians
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses
- United States Preventive Services Task Force
Medicaid reimburses screening for maternal depression on a state-by-state basis; learn more.
The MMHLA is committed to creating a Gold Standard for screening maternal mental health disorders at regular intervals during pregnancy and throughout first year of baby’s life.
The economic costs and considerations of maternal mental health issues are significant, and include the cost of untreated illnesses and the impact on the baby and family. The following organizations have examined the economic costs and long-term implications of maternal depression:
- Mathematica (2019): Societal Costs of Untreated Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders in the United States
- The Brookings Institute (2019): The Effects of Maternal Depression on Early Childhood Development and Implications for Economic Mobility
- The Rand Corporation (2013): Transforming Systems for Parental Depression and Early Childhood Developmental Delays
- The Wilder Foundation (2010): The Cost of Untreated Maternal Depression
The National Committee for Quality Assurance — with assistance from the ZOMA Foundation and the California Healthcare Foundation — has developed care quality measures around screening for depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period. These measures are now included in the national Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS), which includes measures for physicians, insurance providers, and other organizations. Learn more here: NCQA Perinatal Depression Measures.