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This blog aims to shed light on the challenges faced by mothers, particularly those dealing with maternal mental health disparities. It provides comprehensive recommendations for program enhancement in areas such as Data, Research, and Quality Improvement; Prevention, Screening, and Diagnosis; Evidence-Based Intervention and Treatment; Evidence-Based Community Practices; and Communications and Community Engagement. Additionally, it explores the role of Mompreneur and Me in addressing maternal health disparities and supporting mothers in the workforce.

Key Points

  • Maternal mental health disparities impact one in five women, with notable disparities for women of color and those facing economic disadvantages.
  • The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes the urgency of tackling maternal health disparities.
  • Mompreneur and Me addresses social determinants of health, economic security, and gender equity, focusing on the tech industry and mompreneurship.
  • The program aligns with the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Mental Health Crisis, contributing to key goals outlined in the blueprint.
  • Maternal caregivers, especially those juggling work and caregiving responsibilities, face challenges impacting their emotional, psychological, and physical well-being.
  • The report emphasizes the importance of strengthening economic and social support for women and families to address the maternal health crisis.
  • Overall, the report serves as a call to action, urging stakeholders to prioritize maternal mental health, address disparities, and implement comprehensive solutions to ensure the well-being of mothers and families.

Advancing Maternal Mental Health: Comprehensive Recommendations for Program Enhancement

As a maternal health expert, I would like to offer comprehensive recommendations for improving maternal mental health programs. In the realm of Data, Research, and Quality Improvement, it is essential to prioritize outcomes such as enhanced maternal and infant health, reduced substance use disorder relapse, and improved mental health during and after pregnancy. Quality care should encompass personalized, comprehensive, and culturally sensitive services addressing both mental health and substance use disorders. Research efforts should focus on the effectiveness of integrated care models, the impact on health disparities, and long-term outcomes for mother-infant dyads.

Moving on to Prevention, Screening, and Diagnosis, there is a notable lack of community-based education programs and accessible resources. Collaborative efforts involving community leaders and healthcare providers have shown positive results. Culturally appropriate approaches can be promoted by training healthcare providers in culturally competent communication and employing community health workers. Encouraging open communication through community forums and peer support groups and integrating mental health assessments into routine prenatal care can foster a more comfortable environment for individuals to share their experiences.

In the domain of Evidence-Based Intervention and Treatment, implementing key models like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing is crucial. It is essential to ensure that providers are well-trained and that community-based resources are actively utilized. Barriers to intervention, including stigma, limited access to specialized care, and disparities among demographic groups, must be addressed. The inclusion of underserved populations is paramount, considering the unique needs and addressing cultural, social, and economic factors in research and guidelines.

Concerning Evidence-Based Community Practices, identifying community-specific needs through comprehensive assessments considering geography, demographics, and cultural factors is essential. Successful strategies involve fostering community partnerships, implementing telehealth solutions, and integrating mental health support into existing programs. Supporting innovations through collaborations between community-based organizations and entrepreneurs can address identified gaps.

Lastly, in Communications and Community Engagement, ideal services should be accessible and stigma-free, addressing barriers through telehealth solutions and community outreach programs. Culturally sensitive communication strategies involving community influencers and leaders are critical. Creating safe spaces for open communication through community-based support groups and online platforms and involving trusted community figures can encourage individuals to share their experiences.

These recommendations collectively aim to contribute to the enhancement of maternal mental health programs, ensuring a comprehensive, culturally sensitive, and effective approach.

How Mompreneur and Me Supports The Maternal Mental Health Crisis

As outlined in the U.S. Playbook to Address Social Determinants of Health, “Backbone organizations” can play a key role in this infrastructure. They manage community-based partnerships formed across sectors such as health care, housing, social services care, nutrition assistance, employment training, and economic development to care for populations holistically. Backbone organizations face varied challenges: funding instability, limited technical capacity, privacy concerns, and data availability, to name a few. Increasing the number of backbone organizations and enhancing their operational capabilities will directly impact the lives of community members who are most in need of their services.

Researchers have identified a link between mental health and the likelihood of participating in the labor force, underlining the broader societal implications of addressing maternal mental health. Mompreneur and Me, the program focusing on the professional development of mothers, aligns seamlessly with the outlined blueprint to address the maternal health crisis in the United States. The social and economic conditions of the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes.

The Mompreneur and Me program addresses health-related social needs at the individual or family level, focuses on populations that experience maternal mental health disparities, and is intended to focus on improving health by addressing adverse SDOH within communities (improving the economic stability, such as through increased job opportunities or quality employment).

It’s not that mothers want to leave the workforce; they can’t overcome specific barriers that keep them from being in the room. Two of those things: a limited network and the national childcare crisis. Nearly half of stay-at-home moms plan to network with other professionals to find new jobs, but unfortunately, 1/3 of them don’t have contacts. Unlike men, women tend to take on daily or weekly tasks that can’t be deferred—including childcare. 

Mompreneur and Me is interested in expanding its program addressing social and structural determinants of health (SSDOH) to improve maternal health and eliminate maternal health inequities. One out of every five women faces the challenge of a maternal mental health disorder such as postpartum depression. However, disparities exist, with women of color or those facing economic disadvantages being significantly more susceptible and less likely to access proper care. Mompreneur and Me aims to improve national maternal health outcomes, particularly among African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women in communities with high maternal and morbidity rates. 

Recognizing mothers’ aspirations to enter quick-growing industries like tech and become mompreneurs, Mompreneur and Me steps in to bridge the gap. I empower and guide mothers in navigating these barriers, providing them with the skills and knowledge to thrive in high-demand sectors. Women and families can access essential financial literacy skills, professional development training, and more. 

Black women face wealth and income gaps that negatively impact economic outcomes. These gaps remain due to a stark history of deliberate policy choices based on white supremacy, systemic racism, sexism, misogyny, and ableism, designed to keep Black women and other women of color in poverty.

A National Partnership for Women & Families analysis reveals that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of Black women who have given birth in the last 12 months are employed. Even when they are employed, Black women face a wage gap: Black women are only paid 66 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. This gap is particularly large after giving birth. A National Partnership for Women & Families analysis shows that Black women who are employed the year after they have given birth are paid 50 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men of the same age group.

Mompreneur and Me covers economic security, with a focus on gender equity and equality and particular attention to the barriers faced by marginalized mothers. With a focus on the tech industry and mompreneurship, Mompreneur and Me facilitates a supportive environment where caregivers can simultaneously spend time with their children and network with other like-minded professionals. This unique approach not only addresses the challenges mothers face but also aligns with the evolving landscape of fast-paced and innovative industries, ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed in the future workforce.

The White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Mental Health Crisis

Recognizing the situation’s urgency, the Biden-Harris Administration has elevated the importance of tackling maternal health disparities to a top priority. As outlined in the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Mental Health Crisis, addressing our maternal health crisis depends on strengthening economic and social support for women and families. By providing activities that enhance skills such as advocacy, communication, conflict resolution, creativity, delegation, emotional intelligence, empathy, flexibility, leadership, negotiation, persuasion, positivity, relationship building, teamwork, time management, and work ethic, Mompreneur and Me contributes to several key goals outlined in the blueprint:

Ensure Those Giving Birth are Heard and are Decision-makers in Accountable Systems of Care

  • Activities promoting communication, empathy, and empowerment for mothers align with the goal of ensuring that pregnant and postpartum women are heard, respected, and active decision-makers in their own care.
  • Developing skills in negotiation and relationship building supports the aim of creating a healthcare system where families feel heard, respected, and involved in decision-making processes.

Expand and Diversify the Perinatal Workforce

  • Mompreneur and Me’s emphasis on professional development can contribute to addressing the shortage and lack of diversity in the perinatal workforce. By empowering mothers with skills and knowledge, they can potentially become valuable contributors to the perinatal healthcare sector, including roles such as doulas, community health workers, and other support positions.

Strengthen Economic and Social Supports for People Before, During, and After Pregnancy

  • Activities that focus on professional development, including leadership and work ethic, can contribute to strengthening economic and social support for women. Empowered and skilled mothers may be better equipped to navigate workplace challenges, access workplace benefits, and advocate for their rights, improving maternal health outcomes.

Mompreneur and Me’s activities align with the broader vision outlined in the blueprint, aiming for a future where every person can have a safe and dignified pregnancy. By enhancing the professional skills of mothers, the program contributes to the broader societal goal of ensuring equitable access to healthcare and addressing systemic issues, including racism, as stated in the executive order on advancing racial equity.

Mompreneur and Me is vital in complementing the comprehensive blueprint by empowering mothers with the skills and knowledge necessary to actively participate in their healthcare, contribute to the perinatal workforce, and strengthen economic and social support. This holistic approach supports the vision of a future where maternal health is prioritized, and every individual can experience a safe and dignified pregnancy.

The Impact of Caregiving Responsibilities on Maternal Mental Health

81% of workers face some form of burnout or mental health issue, and 68% say that their daily work has been interrupted by these challenges. The dual role of caregiving and working, often shouldered by working mothers, can have notable consequences for maternal mental health:

Emotional and Psychological Impact

  • The emotional distress mentioned in the context of working caregivers is particularly relevant to maternal mental health. Mothers who are also family caregivers may experience heightened emotional challenges as they navigate the complex responsibilities of both roles.
  • The emotional toll can stem from the inherent difficulties of caregiving, such as managing health care and support services for a loved one. The emotional distress may manifest in feelings of guilt, anxiety, and frustration, impacting the overall well-being of maternal caregivers.

Physical Health Concerns

  • Juggling work schedules and caregiving responsibilities can lead to physical health concerns. The demands of both roles may result in fatigue, sleep deprivation, and increased susceptibility to illness for maternal caregivers.
  • The physical health challenges can be exacerbated by the stress and strain of managing competing demands, potentially impacting the ability of maternal caregivers to care for themselves adequately.

Work-Life Balance and Burnout

  • The statistics indicating that a significant percentage of workers face burnout or mental health issues, with daily work being interrupted by these challenges, highlight the critical issue of maintaining work-life balance for maternal caregivers.
  • Maternal caregivers may find it challenging to balance the demands of their profession and their caregiving responsibilities, leading to burnout. The consequences of burnout can include decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and further deterioration of mental health.

Navigating Health Care Services

  • Maternal caregivers who are thrust into the role of family caregiving may face additional stress in navigating the healthcare and support services for their loved ones. This process can be complicated and overwhelming, especially for those who are new to caregiving responsibilities.
  • The added responsibility of coordinating healthcare services may contribute to feelings of anxiety and frustration, impacting the mental health of maternal caregivers.

The intersection of work and caregiving responsibilities poses substantial challenges for maternal mental health. The emotional, psychological, and physical toll of juggling these responsibilities can lead to burnout and mental health issues. Recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by maternal caregivers is crucial for promoting their well-being and ensuring that they can effectively balance the demands of work and caregiving while maintaining their own mental health. Employers and support systems should be mindful of these challenges and work towards creating environments that support the mental health of working caregivers, including maternal caregivers.

About the Author

Christine Michel Carter has established herself as a trusted outside resource and expert, contributing impactful insights to Forbes and highlighting the effects of the Biden-Harris Administration on maternal mental health. Her articles are dedicated to making information on available legislation for single mothers accessible to a broader audience.

In her role as an advisory board member, Christine has been instrumental in advancing maternal mental health initiatives and legislation through Mom Congress and the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health. Her influential contributions include supporting multiple pieces of legislation annually, employing strategies such as calls to action, organizational sign-on letters, and direct advocacy by members nationwide.

Over the course of 12 years, Christine’s involvement with Mom Congress has been pivotal in catalyzing the maternal mental health field, leading to the introduction and passage of seven state and federal bills and funding requests. Notable successes include advocating for the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act, PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, TRIUMPH for New Moms Act, and Into the Light for Maternal Mental Health.

Throughout her journey, Christine has collaborated on maternal initiatives with Vice President Kamala Harris, advocated for congressional action on a federal paid family leave program, and worked closely with influential entities such as the Congressional Caucus on Black Women & Girls, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In 2023, the City of Baltimore recognized Christine’s dedication to community service, and she received a Congressional Citation from the U.S. Senate for her exceptional efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her focus was on ensuring that Black Moms and Moms of Color had access to vital health information for their children and families. Currently, Christine is actively involved in the reintroduction of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act.