Skip to main content

Bridging Gaps to Improve Maternal Mental Health Care

April 03, 2019

BOSTON, Mass.—Behavioral health care must be better integrated with physical health care during and after pregnancy to sufficiently meet the needs of women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), Mousumi Mukerji, MSN, PMHNP-BC, CNM, said at Elevate by Psych Congress.

Mukerji, who recently became a psychiatric nurse practitioner, previously worked as a nurse midwife and obstetrics nurse for over 20 years. Despite excellent nursing training, she said she did not know how to manage mothers’ mental health during those years.

“Depression, anxiety, and trauma were the most common obstetric complications I encountered and yet [they were] the ones we had no protocol to screen, diagnose, treat, or refer,” said Mukerji, who now works in a community mental health clinic for child and adolescent psychiatry.

She does not believe conventional obstetrics practice today is any different.

“We ignore the signs of trouble because we don’t have the training,” she said. “We have failed to provide mental health access to our citizenry. We have failed to integrate behavioral health with physical health care, and so we have failed to train perinatal providers in how to catch and manage PMADs.”

Mukerji spoke at re:Think, a series of TED-style talks given by innovative experts in the mental health field, at Elevate.

“I have a unique professional background that I wanted to share with others and help them realize how badly both medicine and society ignore mothers’ mental health issues,” she said before the talk.

Also at re:Think:
Examining the Relationship Between Tooth Loss and Dementia
A New Kind of Heart

She hopes those who attended the talk will feel empowered to reach out to obstetric providers and to pregnant and postpartum women and men and offer their psychiatric expertise and services.

In the future, Mukerji would like to start a support group for mothers in her clinic. Eventually, she hopes to have her own private practice and specialize in perinatal mental health.

In her presentation, Mukerji said just 9% of women with antenatal depression and 6% of women with postpartum depression get adequate treatment, and only 5% of women with antenatal depression and 3% of women with postpartum depression achieve remission.

She outlined many ways in which mental health clinicians can help improve those statistics: work in collaboration with obstetricians and midwifes; join a local maternal mental health task force and provide input; attend conferences on the topic; attain an online certification; join a psychiatric consultation line for obstetric providers; and start a support group for perinatal women.

“The maternal mental health movement is in a state of delayed infancy and it needs our help,” she said. “Moms and babies have been ignored for way too long and it’s high time we started to meet them where they are.”

—Terri Airov


“Closing the gap in maternal mental healthcare.” Presented at Elevate by Psych Congress: Boston, Massachusetts; March 10, 2019.

Back to Top