Maternal mental health (MMH) conditions are one of the most common complications during pregnancy and the postpartum period. These conditions impact 800,000 families each year in the United States and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this crisis nearly three to four times over.iii When left untreated, which includes nearly 75% of those affected, the annual cost of MMH is roughly $14 billion, or $32,000 per mother and infant.
What’s more alarming is individuals who experience racial or economic inequities, are more likely to experience maternal mental health conditions, but less likely to get help. Untreated MMH conditions can have long-term negative impacts on the parents, baby, family and society.
MMH conditions include depression, anxiety, bipolar illness, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disordersiii. In particular, overdose and suicide are the leading causes of pregnancy-associated deaths in the U.S.
Into the Light for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Act of 2021
During the 117th Congress, a bipartisan group of members, led by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Congresswomen Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), ushered passaged and enactment of a landmark bill that will make critical steps to strengthen and expand the federal grant program to support screening and increased access to treatment for maternal health and substance use disorders during pregnancy and postpartum. The legislation also authorizes a national hotline dedicated to provide 24 hour/365 day support for individuals experiencing MMH.
Specifically, the bill does the following:
- Provides an official authorization for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal Mental Health Hotline, which will provide emotional support, information, resources, and brief intervention to pregnant and postpartum individuals. This hotline was initially established in the FY 2021 federal budget.
- Addresses screening and treatment of MMH conditions by programs that provide psychiatric consultation services for obstetric providers, resources and referral programs, and training for front-line providers.
- Reauthorizes provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act which provides grants to states; the legislation increases funding to a level so that at least half of the states and territories will receive grants.
For additional information, please check out the following resources:
iiiMarch 2017 issue (Vol. 129, No. 3) of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the March/April 2017 issue (Vol. 46, No. 2) of the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing.