For Immediate Release: June 8, 2023
Ben Truman │ Vermont Department of Health
802-316-2117 / 802-863-7281
Vermont Works to Address Growing Rate of Pregnancy-related Mental Health Disorders
Cost effective efforts will increase access to screening and treatment before and after childbirth
BURLINGTON, VT – Expecting and caring for a baby is an exciting, life-changing time. But for more than 25% of Vermonters who give birth, it can also bring significant mental health challenges.
Newly published data from the Department of Health finds that mood and anxiety disorders before and after childbirth are becoming more common. To help ensure people who are pregnant or recently had a baby have ready access to mental health supports, state health officials are working with medical providers, mental health professionals and social service partners to increase the capacity to screen, treat and refer people to services.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are a group of symptoms that can occur during pregnancy the through the first year after birth, causing emotional and physical concerns that make it hard to enjoy life and function well. Health care providers in Vermont screen most patients during this perinatal period, which improves the chances that these disorders are diagnosed and treated early.
A Health Department data analysis shows that PMADs have increased from about 20% (2014) to 25.2% (2020), and related national studies indicate a similar increase in symptoms of depression among U.S. birthing parents in 2020.
“Like so much in public health, prevention and treatment for mental health are key,” said Ilisa Stalberg, the Health Department’s director for Family and Child Health. “Early screening and connection to resources can make a big difference. It gets people the care they need and deserve, and has a positive impact on the societal and financial stressors that untreated PMADs can have on families, schools and the health care system.”
Research and data analytics company Mathematica used the state’s data to produce an issue brief for state policy makers about the Cost of Untreated Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, which found that when left untreated, PMADs cost Vermont about $48 million, based on a timeframe between pregnancy through 5 years postpartum.
“The cost of early access to treatment is only about $1,000 per person treated,” said Stalberg. “By investing in effective mental health screening and treatment, we can greatly improve the quality of life for people who are pregnant and postpartum, and their children.”
Breena Holmes, MD, of the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine agrees, citing the work of the Screening, Treatment and Access for Mothers and Perinatal Partners (STAMPP) Program, a state-wide team of experts working to enhance the system of care for this population.
“STAMPP is one of the strategic investments being made to improve the system,” said Dr. Holmes. “A focus on expanding PMAD screening in primary care, pediatrics, obstetrics, and family medicine offices, as well as providing support for specialized training for clinicians, is an excellent example of how we can bend the curve for improved mental and physical health.”
If you or a loved one are feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed, talk to your medical provider, or connect to services by visiting HelpMeGrowVT.org. You can also email [email protected], dial 2-1-1 extension 6, or text HMGVT to 898211. If it is an emergency, dial 9-1-1.
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