May Was Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

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Originally posted on June 23, 2021

Photo by Graham Macindoe

May marked Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, a month dedicated to raising raise awareness and help end stigma around maternal mental health.  In May, we also honored mothers around the nation as we acknowledged the maternal bonds that hold many families together during our annual Mother’s Day celebrations. Over the last year, both events have been overshadowed by the global pandemic. Lockdowns and restrictions limited how we’ve been able to honor the nuances of motherhood, especially as motherhood became more complex. The isolation and almost impossible juggling of roles as caregiver, essential worker, homeschool teacher, and partner have chipped away at the mental health of many. For pregnant and new mothers, the pandemic has heightened mental health strains. In the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 7 mothers will suffer the most common complication of childbirth, postpartum anxiety or depression. Local experts say this number has only gone up during the pandemic. 

In Philadelphia, the Maternal Mortality Review Committee revealed in their 2021 report that mental and behavioral health issues played an important role among pregnancy-associated deaths. Forty-five percent of the pregnancy-associated deaths had a history of mental health issues and 58% had a history of a substance use disorder. For mothers, seeking help is not always easy due to barriers to accessing mental health services. However, one of the first steps to healthier mothers, babies, and families is identifying mental and behavioral health issues through the screening process. 

Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) has been working diligently behind the scenes to support birthing people in their attempts to access quality behavioral health services through our work with the Pennsylvania Pritzker Children’s Initiative. Through this initiative, partners from across the state are collaborating to advance behavioral health prenatal and postpartum screenings that include evidenced-based depression screenings with anxiety questions and behavioral screenings including substance use screening. This collaborative is also aiming to increase coordination of services for pregnant and postpartum mothers who were screened and identified with depression or other behavioral health diagnoses to ensure they have received needed services. 

MCC has also implemented several innovative programs within the past several years to help address behavioral health challenges among families we serve.  

The MOMobile® Rapid Engagement program (MRE), funded by Vital Strategies, was designed in response to the opioid epidemic. MRE is a short-term outreach and linkage intervention for pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders.  The program supports the local public health system to better meet the urgent and time-sensitive needs of this often difficult to engage population by providing a single, streamlined point of entry through an established hotline number (267-857-8600), accessible to emergency rooms, OB clinics, first responders, and other social services providers who routinely interface with this population. An Advocate will respond to the call and meet with the client and/or referral person immediately.  MRE connects clients to: 

  • Urgent resources (, shelter, clothing, baby supplies) 
  • Medical care (e.g.OB, pediatric, PCP) 
  • Recovery/harm reduction resources
  • Long-term home visiting services for ongoing emotional, educational, and case-management support

The Healthy Babies program, funded by Keystone First, works with pregnant women with substance use dependence, families and caregivers caring for newborns affected by prenatal substance exposure, and babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, Lower Bucks County, and through the baby’s critical first 18 months  Through an MCC Advocate, the program will provide assessments, education, support and resources to babies, parents and/or other caregivers (which may be a relative or a foster parent) to build a healthy foundation for the baby and caregivers together.  

The MOMobile® Family Therapy program (MFT), funded by the Pennsylvania Commission of Crime and Delinquency, the CIGNA Foundation and Healthy Start, identifies and treats perinatal depression and other behavioral health conditions which are known to negatively impact a parent’s ability to parent and care for their child. The intervention helps mitigate risks and long-term impact on child and family well-being, including potential occurrences of child abuse and neglect.  MFT provides behavioral health services to clients enrolled in one of our home visiting programs.  Services take place in the clients’ natural setting, usually in the home (virtual platforms were used during the COVID-19 pandemic), utilizing a multidisciplinary approach to care coordination. The program brings together two systems of care, the Behavioral Health and Community Health Worker systems, drawing on each of their unique strengths and specializations to best meet the varied and complex needs of our clients.   

If you’re looking to learn more about MCC services please reach out to [email protected].