A Strategy to Improve Postpartum Mental Healthcare

It’s no secret that the stigma around mental illness is a significant barrier to people pursuing treatment. During the Postpartum Revolution Road Trip tour, Angelina Spicer stopped in Pittsburgh on her mission to normalize the way we discuss, treat, and even joke about depression. We laughed a lot (she is a comedian, after all!), but we also had some time for serious discussion as she filmed her documentary. I was honored to be included as a panelist to discuss postpartum mental health, and I’d like to share some of that information here so you can better support the people in your world. (Scroll to the bottom for links to resources.)

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Let’s start with some data:

  • Every 12 hours, a person dies from pregnancy-related causes.
  • Mental health conditions are common complications in pregnancy and an underlying cause for approximately 9% of pregnancy-related deaths.  
  • 1 in 8 people report symptoms of depression after giving birth, and over half of pregnant people with depression are not treated. 
  • 1 in 10 experience postpartum anxiety with similar lack of treatment.
  • Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
  • Pregnancy-related deaths for black and AI/AN women older than 30 was four to five times as high as it was for white women. (Even in states with the lowest rates and among women with higher levels of education, significant differences persist.)
  • According to a recent CDC report from 31 states, about 1 in 5 women who participated in the study were not asked about depression during a prenatal visit and 1 in 8 were not asked during a postpartum visit.
  • Sadly, suicide and overdose combined are the leading cause of death for women in the first year following pregnancy.

With so many pregnant people struggling (along with their partners and children), how can we change those statistics for the better?

  • Supporting research to find solutions so every family gets the best possible start. In my life, that means supporting March of Dimes, especially since the research they funded saved my life and the lives of my two sons.
  • Advocating for policies that prioritize the health of moms and babies. Currently, that means supporting The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021.
  • Connecting pregnant people and their families to local resources and supporting those organizations.
  • Educating health professionals to improve care for everyone giving birth. In my life, that means screening my pregnant clients and continuing to offer those screenings for the first year postpartum.
  • Making appropriate healthcare accessible for everyone. Pieces of the legislation linked above address that, but we need to tackle the systemic racism and gaps in health insurance coverage that contribute to lack of access.
  • Pressing companies to set goals and implement strategies to help reduce racial disparities in maternal health (like what BCBS is doing).
  • WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT! Sharing our stories and educating one another is crucial in supporting people through their perinatal mental health journeys.

So thank you, Angelina Spicer, for bringing your comedy and unfiltered story to Pittsburgh! You’ve created a revolution we can all get behind. Thank you, March of Dimes, Allegheny Health Network, and The Tull Family Theater for bringing this meaningful event to our area. Follow Angelina here to watch for the documentary she filmed along the way to D.C. where she met with legislators to make change happen!

References & Resources:

To inquire about how Jessica can bring these conversations to your organization, please email jessicamgage@gmail.com

Published by Jessica Gage, MA, LPC, NCC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (license #PC007550) and a National Certified Counselor.

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