Supporting Maternal Mental Health Efforts for Georgia’s Moms

Author: GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students

GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, in collaboration with Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia and Postpartum Support International – Georgia Chapter, recently released the research brief, “Helping Mothers, Helping Babies: A Two-Generation Approach to Treating Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.”

Georgia is currently experiencing a maternal health crisis, which has had devastating effects not only for mothers, but also for their children. Maternal mental health is of specific concern. A House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality conducted in Georgia in the Fall of 2019 listed mental health conditions as one of the causes of pregnancy related deaths.

Studies show that mental health conditions impact mothers and their children too. Maternal depression, for example, has shown to increase a child’s risk for behavioral problems, depression symptoms, and stress-related health issues. This is especially of concern in Georgia, where responses to the 2017 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) showed more than 50% of new mothers reported feeling “down, depressed, or hopeless.”

To assist more mothers and their children through these challenges, the state should implement strategies to support both mothers who experience pregnancy related mental health conditions such as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) and their children. While Georgia currently has evidence-based models such as home visiting and dyadic treatment available in a limited capacity, these services are not widely accessible enough to address the prevalence of PMADs. These practices are promising approaches to improving mothers and children’s social-emotional well-being, and they should be adequately supported. Additionally, statewide policy changes, such as extending pregnancy Medicaid to one-year postpartum, could provide additional access to care for Georgia’s mothers.