First-of-its-kind blog series spreads message of hope for women with postpartum depression

Nancy Byatt lead author for “Supporting Moms: Solving America’s Maternal Mental Health Crisis”

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

February 16, 2016
  Nancy Byatt, DO

Perinatal depression expert Nancy Byatt, DO, MBA

More common than diabetes during pregnancy, depression affects one in seven women who are pregnant or have recently had a baby. The often unrecognized and unmet mental health needs of new and expectant mothers have rendered a public health crisis that impacts children, families and communities as well as the affected women.

Now, in a first-of-its-kind collaboration, mental health and women’s health organizations, medical professionals, advocates and legislators have joined in a national call to systemically improve mothers’ mental health care.

“Supporting Moms: Solving America’s Maternal Mental Health Crisis” is a nine-part blog series co-developed and moderated by UMass Medical School perinatal depression expert Nancy Byatt, DO, MBA, associate professor of psychiatry and obstetrics & gynecology. The series has been launched by consumer advocacy group Care For Your Mind in collaboration with the National Network of Depression Centers. The first post, which Dr. Byatt authored, was published on Feb. 16.

“Because of a severe lack of resources and education, perinatal mental health has become a national public health crisis, and it’s time for reform,” writes Byatt, who is also the medical director of the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program for Moms. MCPAP for Moms promotes maternal and child health by building the capacity of providers serving pregnant and postpartum women and their children up to one year after delivery to effectively prevent, identify and manage depression.

“Women need to know they live in a culture that supports them, listens to them and remains with them as they take on an extraordinarily challenging role,” said Byatt. “And providers need to feel comfortable broaching the subject with patients and following up with appropriate treatment and/or referral.”

In addition to Byatt, the blog posts are authored by perinatal depression experts and advocates for reform including Tiffany Moore Simas, MD, MPH, associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and pediatrics; Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark; and mothers and family members with personal experience. They address how common the problem is; obstacles to treatment and how to overcome them; support resources available from health care professionals and community members; and proposed national legislation to fund programs like MCPAP for Moms in other states.

“The good news is this issue is gaining momentum,” said Byatt. “Through this series, we aim to continue that momentum, and spark a national conversation about mental health during pregnancy and the year after birth.”

Related links on UMassMedNow:
UMMS perinatal expert explains why all mothers should be screened for depression during, after pregnancy
Perinatal depression expert urges calm on study linking antidepressant use to autism
Byatt tells Reuters Health new study will help pregnant women decide about antidepressants
Expert’s Corner: Consider all options for treating depression during pregnancy
More help on the way for Mass. women with depression during and after pregnancy
Byatt to Telegram & Gazette: postpartum depression can interfere with mother-child bond