Continuum of Care
We know we can create all the awareness in the world, but if everyone in the community isn’t working together, women won’t get the help they need. We need more healthcare providers who have been trained in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and better communication systems between obstetricians, pediatricians, organizations focused on healthy early childhood development, organizations supporting mothers and the psychiatric community.
Creating “Continuum of Care” Systems In Every Community
We recognize that in many places psychiatric providers of any type, much less specialists, are scarce. “The severe shortage of mental health professionals continues to impede access to treatment … This lack of access to mental health professionals prevents women from receiving appropriate treatment after a depression diagnosis and can have devastating consequences for the woman’s own health and the health of her infant.”
We also recognize that many women who have perinatal mood and anxiety disorders have never received psychiatric care before, have no relationships with a therapist or psychiatrist and wouldn’t know where to find one, and fear seeking such help because of stigma. At the same time, those physicians who do normally see pregnant and new mothers – obstetricians and pediatricians – receive very little training in that arena. Many also feel uncomfortable taking responsibility for a mother’s mental health, a primary reason being that they don’t know where to send a patient if she scores high on a screening test, indicating she may have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.
It is our goal to train community champions to develop local programs that bring together various disciplines (obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, primary care, etc.) to create a specialized continuum of care for women with postpartum depression and related illnesses, so that they never fall through the cracks. Whether she sees her OB, her pediatrician or visits a community clinic, we want all constituents in local maternal child health to know each other and work together to create the best possible outcome for a suffering mother.
We also believe that women receive the most optimal help from psychiatric providers who have specialized medical training and experience in reproductive psychiatry. Eventually, we’d like to help create a medical school curriculum and to increase the number of fellowships that focus on reproductive psychiatry. Currently, only one such fellowship exists in the entire United States.
 National Institute of Healthcare Management Foundation Issue Brief, “Identifying and Treating Maternal Depression: Strategies & Considerations for Health Plans”, June 2010