HRSA Launches New Maternal Mental Health Hotline

This past Mother’s Day, the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) launched the Maternal Mental Health Hotline: a free, confidential hotline for new and expectant mothers experiencing mental health challenges. With 1 in 7 women experiencing postpartum depression after birth and nearly 50% of pregnant women experiencing feelings of anxiety, there is an increasing need for mental health resources for mothers. The mental health hotline connects mothers or their loved ones with trauma-informed and culturally sensitive counselors who can provide emotional support or referrals to community-based and telehealth providers. Individuals can call or text the hotline at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746). 

Today, we are creating a safe space for expecting and new moms who are experiencing maternal depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns to have confidential conversations and get the support they need.

- Carole Johnson, Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator

The federal government funded the hotline through the HRSA with an initial investment of $3 million. According to President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget, this investment will double, allowing the HRSA to hire more counselors for the hotline and increase capacity. 

Services Provided By The Maternal Mental Health Hotline

Available 24/7, 365 days a year, the hotline provides counseling services, brief interventions, and additional resources in Spanish and English, and it offers additional interpreter services in 60 languages. When an individual calls or texts the hotline number, a response from a trained counselor will be available in a few minutes. Hotline counselors available through the Maternal Mental Health Hotline includes:

  • Licensed mental health clinicians
  • Nurses or doctors
  • Doulas or childbirth educators
  • Peer support specialists

However, this mental health hotline is not a “crisis” line; if you or someone you love is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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What Is Maternal Mental Health?

Maternal mental health is the expansive range of emotions that an individual experiences during and after pregnancy. The experience of pregnancy, both pre, during, and post, has long-lasting impacts on the brain and the body. Many physical and mental transformations occur during this time, and emotions like joy, excitement, anxiety, and fear fluctuate significantly during and after pregnancy. For most women, these feelings of sadness, stress, fear, and anxiety will ebb after the pregnancy, but if these feelings become more severe or persist, it may be necessary to reach out for support. 

Up to half of new mothers experience minor depressive symptoms, and between 8% and 10% of pregnant women experience generalized anxiety disorders (GADs). However, despite the commonality of these symptoms among pregnant women, mental health conditions are not consistently screened for. The HRSA’s new hotline aims to bridge this gap and connect women to screening and treatment services for mental health conditions. 

What’s The Difference Between Baby Blues, Perinatal Depression, And Postpartum Depression?

About 80% of postpartum individuals experience what is known as the “baby blues,” or bouts of anxiety, sadness, stress, and mood swings shortly after birth. Baby blues are common after delivery because the body undergoes extreme hormonal changes. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly, and oxytocin (the hormone that aids in the bonding process) surges. What separates baby blues from perinatal and postpartum depression are 2 factors: timeline and severity of symptoms. The baby blues set in quickly after birth, but it does not last longer than 2 weeks. Moreover, the symptoms of baby blues (which will vary from person to person and are subjective) should not impact one’s quality of life. If one’s feelings of distress last longer than 2 weeks and interfere with one’s quality of life, it may be perinatal or postpartum depression.

While perinatal and postpartum depression share similar symptoms, the timeline differentiates the two. Perinatal depression refers to the major depressive episodes that can occur during and up to a year after pregnancy. This type of depression is common among pregnant women (1 in 5), but it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. In fact, more than half of women go undiagnosed for perinatal depression, and at least 85% go untreated. In contrast, postpartum depression occurs after childbirth (within the first 3 months) and, without treatment, can persist for many months or years.

There Is No Shame In Reaching Out For Help

Some mothers can experience feelings of shame or guilt over their mental health challenges due to expectations that they should be overjoyed with their experience, but this is not realistic. Hormonal fluctuations, difficult birthing experiences, and limited access to a support system can leave emotional and physical wounds on new and expectant mothers. Less than 15% of women who experience mood and anxiety symptoms get connected to treatment, but the Maternal Mental Health Hotline is available to connect individuals with the help they need. Beyond this hotline, individuals can find additional resources for maternal mental health through organizations like Postpartum Support International, Mom’s Mental Health Matters, and 2020 Mom.

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Carmen McCrackin

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  • Carmen McCrackin earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Auburn and has over 4 years of professional writing experience. Her passion for writing and educating others led her to a career in journalism with a focus on mental health and social justice topics. Her main mission is to be a platform for all voices and stories, and to provide tangible resources to those seeking recovery for themselves or loved ones.

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