Monday, April 15, 2024

Problems with moms’ mental health are making more people die in the US, says a study

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Moms feeling really sad or stressed is a big problem for pregnant women in the US. It’s the main reason why some moms die during or after pregnancy, says a new study. But even though there are plans to fix this issue, they usually don’t focus much on mental health.

In the US, more moms die during or after pregnancy compared to other rich countries – like two or three times more! This study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, talked about it on Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that most of these deaths can be stopped, around 80% of them.

Researchers found that mental health issues, like suicide and opioid overdose, contribute to almost 25% of maternal deaths in the US. This is nearly twice the rate of deaths from postpartum bleeding, which is the second most common cause of pregnancy-related death. The information comes from reports by maternal morbidity and mortality review committees, groups in each state that examine maternal deaths.

Dr. Katherine Wisner, from Children’s National Hospital, explained that the role of mental health in the crisis of maternal morbidity and mortality is not widely acknowledged. She stressed the need to make the public and policymakers aware of this issue to take action against the mental health crisis affecting mothers in the country.

The researchers highlighted that women face a higher risk of developing new psychiatric disorders during and right after pregnancy. Approximately 14.5% experience depression during pregnancy, while another 14.5% go through it in the first three months after giving birth. However, only 20% of women get screened for postpartum depression.

Dr. Wisner emphasized the importance of screening and providing treatment during this period when mothers often have contact with healthcare professionals. She said, “Mental health is crucial for the well-being of the mother, child, and the whole family.”

Many states have limited access to comprehensive maternity care, with over 400 maternity services closing nationwide between 2006 and 2020. This leaves nearly 6 million people in “maternity care deserts” without or with limited access to maternity care. The lack of accessible maternity care puts stress on mothers who have to travel long distances, increasing the risk of untreated health complications, as mentioned in the evidence review.

Restrictions on women’s health care, including the ability to have certain medical procedures, can also impact a mother’s mental well-being. A study mentioned in the report discovered that making laws that limit abortion providers is linked to a 6% increase in the yearly suicide rate among people of reproductive age.

The report also talked about the harmful effects of traumatic experiences during pregnancy and stress before childbirth. It highlighted how factors like having enough money, education, and a good environment can affect pregnancy outcomes.

The report pointed out that people from minority groups, like those with different racial or ethnic backgrounds, often face more challenges during pregnancy because of unfair systems. For example, Black mothers are much more likely to die during childbirth compared to white mothers. In 2021, the death rate for Black mothers was 2.6 times higher than for white mothers, as reported by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Black mothers are also twice as likely to have mental health issues during pregnancy, but they are only half as likely to get help compared to white mothers, according to Dr. Jessica Pineda from Brown University.

She explained in an email to CNN that the reasons for these disparities include difficulties with transportation, finding someone to take care of their children, and the cost of treatment. There’s also a lack of trust in the health care system.

Even though there are national plans, like the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, trying to solve the problem of mothers dying during childbirth in the US, the report suggests that more attention needs to be given to mental health. The White House acknowledged in a statement from March 2022 that fixing mental health issues isn’t just about the health care system. They believe it’s important to also look at the causes of mental health problems, invest in community services, and create a culture and environment that supports mental well-being and recovery.


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