Maternal Health Learning Series Focuses on Perinatal Mental Health Support

October 30, 2023

GNYHA recently held “Perinatal Mental Health Support for Patients and Clinicians,” the latest forum of the Advancing Maternal Health and Well-Being Learning Series.

Representatives from the New York State Department of Health kicked off the meeting. Kristen Lawless, New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative Director, and Jacqueline Kellachan, Project Director of the New York State Birth Equity Improvement Project, provided an update on the project’s progress. The goal is to help all birthing hospitals and centers across the State identify how individual and systemic racism impacts birth outcomes at their facility and improve both the care experience and perinatal outcomes of Black birthing people in the communities they serve. The Birth Equity Improvement Project launched in January 2021 and includes 73 birthing facility participants. The project recently launched the Patient-Reported Experience Measure (PREM). Implementation strategies include providing patients with tablets to complete the PREM survey and identifying staff who can best discuss the new measure.

Kristina Deligiannidis, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, Director of Women’s Behavioral Health at Zucker Hillside Hospital, and Medical Director of Reproductive Psychiatry at Project TEACH, and David L. Kaye, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and Executive Director of Project TEACH, discussed how Project TEACH helps clinicians meet the mental health care needs of perinatal patients. Funded by the New York State Office of Mental Health, Project TEACH focuses on child and adolescent mental health. In 2018, the effort added a limited maternal mental health initiative. In 2022, the project expanded statewide. Project TEACH helps pediatric primary care clinicians deliver care to children and families who experience mild-to-moderate mental health concerns. The effort also seeks to help OB/GYNs and other health care clinicians enhance their ability to assess and manage maternal mental health concerns.

Catherine Birndorf, MD, Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Medical Director of the Motherhood Center, and Paige Bellenbaum, LCSW, the Motherhood Center’s Founding Director and Chief External Relations Officer, discussed their efforts to effectively diagnose and treat those suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), which they say impact one out of five women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. PMADs are a leading cause of maternal mortality in the United States, and Black women are twice as likely to experience a PMAD but half as likely to receive treatment. PMADs are typically identified via maternal depression screening. To better address PMADs, they recommended providers start talking to women prior to conception about their mental health history. They also called on providers to better integrate PMAD education and screening efforts throughout the pregnancy and postpartum periods.

GNYHA’s Maternal Health Learning Series shares up-to-date information from Federal, State, and local government agencies on advancing maternal health equity. Each session spotlights member programming focused on closing identified gaps in care delivery across the maternal health care continuum. GNYHA will continue to provide support and resources with the latest information to help member hospitals provide high-quality care, advance maternal health equity, and improve care outcomes.