PR Intern Ashley Farrell on Well Moms, Well Tots: Maternal Depression
In almost every health-related course I have took in school, the curriculum covers the same information: drugs and alcohol, mental health, chronic and communicable diseases, and the health care system. I soon realized that from middle school when I learned about pregnancy we only spoke about the basics: the incredible journey of bringing a human to life, including prenatal care and the complications that may occur to the fetus. We don’t learn about the one issue that affects both the parent and the fetus: maternal depression. During my time as an intern at Docs for Tots I learned about the alarming rates of maternal depression and I was stunned. How is it that an issue this big, that affects millions of mothers (and their child), not being given the publicity that it needs?
Maternal depression, more commonly referred to as postpartum depression, is a pervasive problem that typically goes undetected and untreated. According to the CDC, as many as 1 in 9 women experience depression before, during or after pregnancy. This type of depression has devastating effects on child development that will impact the child and family for years to come. For the mother, it becomes exhausting and difficult to complete daily activities for themselves and others because of their frequent mood swings. Some of its negative impacts on children include cognitive and behavioral impairment as well as a decline in social functioning.
Women in underserved communities who experience poverty, financial difficulties, and lack jobs, as well as women of color are more at risk for postpartum depression. Approximately 50% of low-income mothers are affected by this disorder. In Nassau County, New York, there is an increasing number of low-income, Spanish speaking immigrants from Central and South America, isolated by suburban geography and acculturation struggles that is at particular risk for unidentified, untreated maternal depression. This issue will continue to arise because these mothers are not being screened for depression and do not receive the necessary treatment and services.
Docs for Tots understands that this issue demands strong community involvement to help women in need of support, so we have come up with a program called Well Moms, Well Tots to address those needs. We have partnered with Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) and the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Centers to support and improve maternal depression screening practices in the Long Island area over the next 2 years. With the grant we have received, Docs for Tots’ Well Moms, Well Tots Program will continue to collaborate with NUMC and other qualified health centers to implement screening in pediatric venues and promote maternal well-being. The grant will help with routine maternal depression screening from pregnancy to one year postpartum, education about maternal depression and maternal wellness, and response and care coordination around maternal depression.