Multiple images of various mothers and their children.

As we strive to meet the immediate needs of mothers in distress, we must embrace technology and collaborative care models as critical components of comprehensive maternal mental health support.

Maternal mental health is a critical but often overlooked aspect of reproductive healthcare. The journey to motherhood is beautiful, transformative, and sometimes overwhelming. While many mothers experience joy and fulfillment, others grapple with the challenges of mental health issues such as postpartum depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. In recent years, the spotlight has shifted towards addressing these issues, but the demand for maternal mental health support far outweighs the available resources.

Traditional approaches to mental healthcare rely heavily on face-to-face interactions with mental health professionals. However, the time and resources required to develop and expand this workforce to meet the growing demand for maternal mental health support are considerable. Unfortunately, these traditional methods are simply too slow to address the immediate needs of mothers in distress. Thankfully, there's a beacon of hope on the horizon: innovation in digital health.

At a critical time when maternal mental health outcomes are lagging and gaps in care loom large for underserved communities, a plethora of maternal mental health startups are springing to life.

“40% of Seven Starling patients haven’t had therapy before receiving mental health services through Seven Starling,” states Tina Keshani, Founder and CEO of maternal mental health startup Seven Starling. “Our tech-enabled and specialized approach allows us to break down existing barriers to care and drive access to the 85% who are diagnosed but never get treated.”

The intersection of technology and healthcare presents an incredible opportunity to revolutionize maternal mental health support. Digital health solutions, including teletherapy platforms, mobile applications, and remote monitoring tools, have the potential to bridge the gap between supply and demand. These innovative solutions offer convenience, accessibility, and privacy, allowing mothers to access support whenever and wherever they need it.

One of the most significant advantages of digital health in maternal mental health is its scalability. Unlike traditional face-to-face therapy, digital solutions can reach a broader audience and provide support to mothers in remote or underserved areas. This scalability is essential for addressing the vast unmet need for maternal mental health support.

Canopie is taking a population-based approach to maternal mental health, working with health plans and integrated delivery networks to engage expectant mothers in their 2nd trimester, regardless of risk level or diagnosis. "The support we offer through our digital platform and virtual services are designed to be delivered to entire perinatal populations preventatively. To date, we have served over 15,000 expecting and new mothers through our platform, and in collaboration with our health plan partners, connected at-risk mothers to additional services - including behavioral health support and case management. We have found our platform reaches - and impacts - mothers with increased social determinants of health risk factors" states Anne Wanlund, Co-Founder and CEO of Canopie.

Furthermore, digital health technologies can empower mothers to take an active role in managing their mental health. Mobile applications that offer self-help resources, mood tracking features, and peer support networks can complement traditional therapy and provide ongoing support between sessions. By equipping mothers with the tools they need to navigate their mental health journey, digital health can promote autonomy and resilience.

However, innovation in maternal mental health extends beyond technology alone. The power of collaborative care models cannot be overstated. Collaborative care brings together a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses, social workers, and mental health specialists, to provide comprehensive and coordinated care to mothers and their families.

Just last week, maternal mental health startup FamilyWell Health raised $4.3M from .406 Ventures, GreyMatter Capital, Mother Ventures and others. Jessica Gaulton, MD, MPH, Founder and CEO of FamilyWell Health, explained how the company is training coaches to expand the workforce: "At FamilyWell, our perinatal collaborative care model is coach-driven, and we are finding that many of our clients are achieving remission from perinatal depression and anxiety in as few as 4-6 sessions with a certified perinatal behavioral health coach."

In the context of maternal mental health, collaborative care models promote early identification, intervention, and ongoing support for mothers at risk of or experiencing mental health challenges. By integrating mental health services into routine prenatal and postpartum care, collaborative care models can reduce stigma, increase access to care, and improve outcomes for mothers and their children.

In conclusion, the opportunity for innovation and digital health in maternal mental health is vast and promising. As we strive to meet the immediate needs of mothers in distress, we must embrace technology and collaborative care models as critical components of comprehensive maternal mental health support. By harnessing the power of innovation, we can ensure that every mother receives the support and care she deserves on her journey to motherhood.

Join us for 2024 Maternal Mental Health FORUM virtually on Tuesday, Mar 19, 2024 1:00pm-1:40pm PT with Solome Tibebu of Behavioral Health Tech, Tina Keshani of Seven Starling, Jessica Gaulton, MD, MPH of FamilyWell Health and Anne Wanlund of Canopie as we dive deeper into this discussion!

Article written by Joy Burkhard, Executive Director & CEO of Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, and Solome Tibebu, Founder & CEO of Behavioral Health Tech.