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Florida hospitals' webinar puts focus on mental health issues in maternity care

Florida Hospital Association

Maternal mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, affect one in five women during the perinatal period, with more than half remaining untreated.

These conditions contribute to 9% of pregnancy-related deaths, with suicide accounting for 20% of postpartum deaths, according to the American Hospital Association.

To tackle these concerns, the Florida Hospital Association hosted a webinar on May 9 during Maternal Mental Health Week.

More than 80 health care professionals, including physicians, nurses and behavioral health providers participated. The goal was to equip them with strategies to better support expectant and new mothers.

During the webinar, Dr. Cole Greves, with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, emphasized the significant role mental health plays in obstetric care.

"Challenges to mental health and wellness are often disproportionately represented in those cases that result in maternal death," he noted. "Without adequate mental health care resources, we would see significantly higher rates of maternal mortality. Even a single mother's life lost is one too many."

Heather Flynn, director of the Florida State University Center for Behavioral Health Integration, highlighted the importance of monitoring women with a history of depression, noting that 32% have such a history. She stressed the effectiveness of doctor-to-doctor consultations in improving the capacity of obstetricians to treat not only depression, but also anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse.

Lori Shea, associate vice president of Lakeland Regional Health, shared the various protocols and partnerships Lakeland Regional Hospital has implemented. These include hospital-wide assessments and the availability of psychiatrists and nurse practitioners to respond to behavioral health concerns.

"We have a team of psychiatrists available seven days a week and nurse practitioners seven days a week, including nights, to be able to act on these assessments and respond to patients with behavioral health concerns," Shea said.

The association's "Maternal Call to Action: Addressing Maternal Mental Health" webinar was the eighth in a series.

In a news release, the association said it will work to reduce maternal mortality rates as hospitals incorporate timely screenings, diversify workforces and train perinatal nurses and providers.

"Behavioral health care is a critical lifeline for expectant and postpartum mothers," said Mary C. Mayhew, the association's president and CEO. "Florida hospitals are working together to implement key strategies and best practices to support expectant and postpartum moms with timely access to effective mental health services."

Recordings of previous webinars on maternal mortality are available online here.

Copyright 2024 WQCS

I’m the online producer for Health News Florida, a collaboration of public radio stations and NPR that delivers news about health care issues.