Hoag Helps Bring Maternal Mental Health Out of the Shadows

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One in five women experience maternal depression, making it the leading complication of pregnancy. But too often maternal mental health is either underestimated or overlooked entirely.

Not at Hoag. To support mothers and babies, Hoag Women’s Health Institute and the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute have collaborated on the Maternal Mental Health Program.

Funded in large part by philanthropy and available to the community at large, the program is one of the few to offer universal screening, community education, connection to support services and early intervention and treatment for women with pre-existing and new mental health challenges during preconception through one year postpartum

“My hope is that clinicians and women both inside of Hoag and outside, recognize the need and understand that maternal mental health is just as important as prenatal care,” said Patricia De Marco Centeno, M.D., physician director of the program. “Screening is essential, and a connection to resources is vital. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Help is available.”

Hoag’s efforts precede statewide legislation that require hospitals and health care providers to offer mental health screenings to women and mental health training for medical staff who work with pregnant and postpartum women. These laws will go into effect next year.

National momentum for programs like Hoag’s is also growing. Earlier this year, the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommended perinatal and postnatal prevention methods – the strongest acknowledgement yet of the depth of a problem that Hoag has been on the forefront of addressing.

“We understand that motherhood can be this incredibly isolating event in a woman’s life, and postpartum depression sometimes gets belittled,” said Allyson Brooks, M.D., Ginny Ueberroth Executive Medical Director Endowed Chair of Hoag Women’s Health Institute. “Our program gives women and their families the full support they need at the time they need it most.”

According to a statewide task force, the annual cost of untreated maternal depression in California is estimated at $2.25 billion. But the effect of untreated mental health issues on a family – and on a child’s welfare – is nearly incalculable.

“Depression and anxiety have been associated with premature delivery, low birth weight, higher rates of C-sections, and higher levels of stress on the newborn,” Dr. De Marco Centeno said. “Babies born from depressed or highly anxious mothers might experience changes to their neurochemistry that predisposes them to depression and anxiety later in life.”

To further support women and their families, the program offers classes and support groups, including:

  • Beyond the Birth Plan: A class designed for pregnant women that addresses expectations, “baby blues” and self-care.
  • Mindfulness Workshop for Pregnant & New Moms: A meditation and mindfulness course for women who are pregnant or postpartum.
  • Support Groups: Free weekly support groups for women experiencing baby blues or post-partum depression.

These classes and courses are led by licensed professionals and offer a safe, nurturing and enriching environment to support women and their families.

“No one else is doing the kind of work in this area that we’re seeing at Hoag,” Dr. Brooks said. “I am proud of the team for their commitment to guiding and supporting women and their babies during what can be a difficult chapter in their lives.”

For more information, call 888-266-2053.