Image of a women and a kid

Maternal mental health is a family concern.

Research continues to show that perinatal and postpartum mental health issues have long-term adverse effects on babies, siblings, and spouses.

  • In utero, babies of depressed mothers are exposed to high levels of cortisol, which increases their risk for ADHD, anxiety disorders, and depression later in life.
  • Perinatal depression has been linked to excessive crying in infants, impaired parent-child interactions, and low birth weight or prematurity.
  • Sixteen-year-olds exposed to postpartum depression are almost five times more likely to be depressed than peers who were not exposed to postpartum depression.
  • Men whose partners experience postpartum depression have a 2.5 times higher risk of developing depression themselves.

Clinicians are increasingly discovering that maternal mental health treatment is a community effort, as well. Statewide Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs are connecting OB/GYNs, family and internal medicine practitioners, and other specialists to reproductive psychiatrists who can help them manage their patients. As a result, families are getting the help they need, wherever they are, and much sooner in the process.

Trayt Health is the technology company behind some of the country’s most successful maternal mental health Access Programs, including the Perinatal Psychiatry Access Network (PeriPAN) in Texas.

Why is the statewide Psychiatry Access Program model so effective for maternal mental health?

Whether it’s pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, or postpartum, an OB/GYN is often the first point of contact for an individual experiencing a mental health challenge—and a first resource for a spouse seeking help for a partner. Most OBs, however, are not equipped on their own to treat reproductive mental health.

The Access Program model is designed to connect OBs and primary care providers to psychiatry specialists who can help them manage their patients in their own clinics. Far too often, maternal mental health issues are not treated until they become severe postpartum depression with long-term impacts for the entire family. With education and support from a reproductive psychiatrist, OBs can learn to recognize early signs of distress and provide effective treatment right away.

What technology is needed for effective statewide care coordination?

First, the Trayt platform provides connectivity between the providers. Mental health is always a team effort, addressing complicated issues that require collaboration and coordination.

The most effective Maternal Mental Health Access Programs are statewide, connecting OBs and other primary care providers throughout the state into the major health systems and research institutions where reproductive psychiatry specialists are standing by to support them. From a technological standpoint, it’s a significant accomplishment to break silos and connect organizations and institutions that do not typically work together.

Additionally, statewide programs need technology that can track treatments and measure patient outcomes. The Trayt platform enables programs to measure success not just by engagement metrics, but by whether or not their patients are getting better.

Together, connectivity and measurement enable an effective model for early intervention that prevents maternal mental health challenges from progressing into family crises.

Access Programs started with child psychiatry. What unique program and technology considerations are needed for maternal mental health?

Many state program leaders may not realize that maternal mental health and child mental health are closely connected. You cannot treat a pregnant or postpartum individual and not think about the child. OBs and pediatricians must coordinate care so that mental health treatment extends to address the long-term mental health needs of the developing child.

A key consideration for a maternal mental health program is to acknowledge the interconnectivity and facilitate seamless transitions between the two types of programs. In other words, the technology platform must facilitate seamless coordination between providers and between Access Programs. Unless you build an integrated program, there will be gaps in care between the mom’s depression and the child’s health and development.

As another example, a pregnant teen would receive care from both a pediatrician and an OB. From a mental health perspective, this individual would need the expertise of a child and adolescent psychiatry specialist, as well as a reproductive psychiatrist to ensure prenatal and postpartum medications are safe for fetal development, compatible with breastfeeding, etc. A technology platform supporting these providers would need to move smoothly between programs—without gaps or friction—to ensure they can collaborate and coordinate care.

What long-term impact will we see as a community by improving access to maternal mental health care?

Where do we begin? Maternal mental health issues can be incredibly debilitating for a mom, and the impact can be devastating for families. Tragically, suicide accounts for 20% of postpartum deaths. Among individuals who develop the most severe postpartum psychosis, 5% will commit suicide, and 4% will also kill a child.

Even in less severe cases, postpartum depression affects lactation, alters the parent-child bond, creates stress for partners and older siblings, and increases the risk of long-term mental health challanges for the baby.

Maternal mental health programs may sound narrow and targeted at first glance, but when deployed community-wide, they can change the trajectory for an entire generation.

Where can we learn more about Trayt Health?

Please visit our website at Trayt.Health to learn why our technology is the only platform with the scale and functionality to fully support statewide Access Programs.

You can also find a video at this link that explains how we are supporting the work of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium. Trayt-supported programs are expanding access across the state, bringing equitable behavioral health care to patients where they are. To date, TCMHCC programs and services are available to more than 3.5 million students, and they support more than 11,500 enrolled providers. A successful pilot program in maternal mental health was just expanded statewide.

And, we’re proud to be a Platinum Sponsor of Going Digital’s Behavioral Health Tech 2023. Come see us in Booth 203!