The Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance reported that 1 in 5 women experience maternal mental health conditions during pregnancy or first year following pregnancy. Despite this prevalence, 75% of those symptoms go untreated. Women living in poverty and women of color are more likely to experience maternal mental health conditions yet less likely to get help. This is detrimental to their overall health and wellbeing and their child’s development. Maternal mental health care must become more accessible and less stigmatized.
This International Women's Day, I had a chance to talk to a few leading Black women who are transforming the industry of maternal mental health care. These incredible women shared a little about their company and what inspired them to create it.
Lauren Elliott, CEO & Co-Founder, Candlelit Therapy
Lauren Elliott founded maternal mental healthcare app, Candlelit Therapy, pulling inspiration from the quote, “A candle never loses its flame by lighting another” and her experience as a Black journalist, public health professional and mom, who experienced a traumatic birth with her now 5-year-old son as she led mental health campaigns for the City of New York. At 38 weeks pregnant, she learned her son was in distress and rather than being educated by providers, she was ignored which led to an emergency cesarean birth. Stories like hers are amplified throughout the country among countless women of color and this inequity has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Candlelit Therapy’s flagship product, Candlelit Care, is a point-of-care digital therapeutic focused on prevention and dismantling of perinatal mental health disparities for birthing parents of color during and after pregnancy. The platform helps healthcare providers easily embed culturally-affirming screening, symptom education and mental health support into their clinical workflow at no cost to the expectant patient and their family.
Check out Candlelit Therapy’s website.
Layo George, CEO, Wolomi
Layo George is a registered nurse and an entrepreneur focusing on population health. In response to the nationwide maternal health crisis facing black women, Layo founded an organization called Wolomi that provides resources and guidance to improve the experiences and outcomes for black women during their perinatal periods.
Wolomi is the only digital community founded by a Black nurse that offers support to women of color to improve maternal health outcomes. Focused on guiding and supporting aspiring moms, moms-to-be and new moms to enjoy their pregnancy journey. Wolomi mobile app offers a pregnancy companion that includes perinatal mental health screening, support and referrals to maternal health experts.
Nathalie Walton, CEO & Co-Founder, Expectful
Expectful was founded by Mark Krassner-Wave, who wanted to create a solution to reduce stress and anxiety in pregnant and new mothers, which he knew would ultimately lead to happier babies and families. He launched Expectful as an app dedicated to meditation during this life stage as a tribute to his mom who struggled with anxiety during pregnancy and throughout his early years.
When I joined as late-stage co-founder in 2020, it was clear that meditation alone wasn’t enough, especially as the pandemic asked so much more of moms and moms-to-be than ever before. Women needed an entire world of holistic care to tap into to support them on their journey -- including mindfulness but also movement, nutrition, increased knowledge through classes, support groups, and access to experts on demand. This was true of my pregnancy and postpartum experience and of so many others, and I wanted to reflect that in our offering.
Expectful offers all the science-backed holistic care women need on the journey toward “Mom.” With practices for hopeful, expecting, and new mothers to help reduce anxiety, ward off depression, and support physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing from fertility throughout motherhood.
Melissa Hanna, JD, MBA, Founder & CEO, Mahmee
I founded Mahmee with my own mom to address the distressing facts and figures around maternal and infant healthcare in the United States, and ultimately to close gaps in health outcomes and disparities in care faced by Black and Indigenous women. Her work as a leading Registered Nurse in Obstetrics and a longtime International Board Certified Lactation Consultant helped me to better understand how both structural bias and a lack of digital resources were impacting these rates. Maternal mental health is a critical component of comprehensive maternity care, and yet we found that so many new and expecting mothers don’t gain access to services fast enough, or at all, so we knew that resources for behavioral health and emotional wellness, in particular, needed to be incorporated into our solution.
Mahmee is an integrated benefits platform for maternal and infant health. Our team is building the digital infrastructure needed to connect patients, independent allied health professionals, and enterprise healthcare organizations together to ensure that moms and babies do not fall through the cracks of this $160 billion U.S. healthcare market, which has the highest maternity costs and mortality rates of all developed nations.
Mahmee increases access to comprehensive wraparound prenatal and postpartum care and reduces severe disparities in mortality and morbidity for Black mothers and infants. We power doula, mental health, and high-risk obstetric programs for some of the largest public and private health systems in the country by helping those enterprises to expand their service lines with community-based perinatal health providers who use Mahmee’s data-driven EHR to schedule visits, document care, make referrals, and communicate with patients. Mahmee’s marketplace helps new and expecting parents discover those providers, utilize their benefits, and get fast access to care, in-person and virtually.
Check out Mahmee’s website or call them at 818-317-2556.
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