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Dr. Nancy Byatt Discusses the Importance of Maternal Mental Health

Date Posted: Monday, January 30, 2023

black mother holding sleeping infant and looking concernedIn light of the recent deaths of three Duxbury, MA, children, Dr. Nancy Byatt discusses the importance of maternal mental health.

One in 5 women experiences a mental health or substance use disorder during their pregnancy or in the first year of postpartum. In rare cases — about 1 or 2 out of every 1,000 postpartum women – this depression can progress to psychosis, in which a woman’s brain is “hijacked by a really, really serious illness that distorts reality” and prompts actions they would never take if healthy said Dr. Nancy Byatt, during an interview with The Boston Globe.

"Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to find the medication that works and, unfortunately, that's quite common.", "Because then you can have intensive treatment in a safe setting where the meds can really be monitored closely," Dr. Byatt told NBC 10 Boston speaking in general terms, not to the specifics of the Clancy case.

“People when they are pregnant or postpartum often think, ‘well, I’m going to ignore my needs because it’s best for my baby.’ It’s not. The best thing they can do for themselves for their baby is to get the treatment that they need and that often includes medication treatment, including SSRI’s,” Dr. Byatt said to Boston Channel 25 News.

In her live interview with Boston Channel 25 News, Dr. Byatt offers guidance on how to talk to teens about mental illness, the warning signs to look for with someone who may be experiencing mental health illness, and ways to cope with tragedy and trauma, that have recently been covered by the media.

The Blue Dot Project, is the national symbol for maternal mental health survivor-ship, support, and solidarity.  "We may have the pink ribbon for cancer awareness. Having a blue dot for mental health really it's a symbolic action having mental health on par with physical health." Dr. Byatt told WCVB Boston Channel 5

Additional Articles where Dr. Nancy Byatt is quoted:

Resources for Perinatal and Maternal Mental Health

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline
833-943-5746 (833-9-HELP4MOMS), a 24/7, Free, Confidential Hotline for Pregnant and New Moms in English and Spanish.

Postpartum Support International (PSI)
800-944-4773 or  971-203-7773 for Spanish
Free Confidential support helpline that offers encouragement and connects you with local resources as needed

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
988, a 24/7, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress in the U.S.

Massachusetts Behavioral Health Help Line
1-833-773-2445. A 24/7, Free, Confidential hotline in Massachusetts for you or someone you care about struggling with mental health or substance use.

Lifeline for Moms 
is an interdisciplinary team of experts who build caregiver capacity to address perinatal mental health and substance use disorders.

MCPAP for Moms
provides real-time, perinatal psychiatric consultation and resources and referrals for obstetric, pediatric, primary care, psychiatric, and substance use disorder providers to effectively prevent, identify, and manage their pregnant and postpartum patients' mental health and substance use concerns.

The Blue Dot Project
The Blue Dot is the national symbol for maternal mental health survivor-ship, support, and solidarity.

NAMI Massachusetts
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts has compiled a list of key perinatal and postpartum resources for patients and their families. These resources include immediate help, support group forums, and self-care strategies.

About Dr. Nancy Byatt, DO, MS,MBA, FACLP

white woman with blue eyes and reddish hair wearing grey jacket smilingDr. Byatt is a perinatal psychiatrist with the Women's Mental Health Center at UMass Memorial Medical Center, Executive Director of the Lifeline for Families Center and Lifeline for Moms, an iSPARC research program, Medical Director of Research for MCPAP, and a tenured professor of psychiatry, ob/gyn, and population & quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School.

Dr. Byatt’s research focuses on designing, implementing, and evaluating scalable interventions that aim to improve parental and child mental health services and outcomes. With more than 10 years of continuous federal funding for her research, her achievements have led to:
        ▪ More than 90 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters
        ▪ More than 250 presentations
        ▪ Numerous national awards

Her passion is increasing access to mental health care. Her mission is to redefine health care to include mental health care.