Advocates, Governor Recgonize Maternal Mental Health Week

CONCORD, NH - This morning, Governor Chris Sununu proclaimed this week Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs May 5-11, is a worldwide campaign dedicated to talking about mental health problems before, during, and after pregnancy. Maternal deaths are preventable, yet the United States has the highest maternal death in the developed world.

Before meeting with the Governor to receive the proclamation, maternal mental health advocates gathered to bring further awareness to the maternal mental health crisis.

“The leading cause of maternal mortality in the United States is suicide and overdose,” said Alison Palmer, a perinatal clinical nurse specialist and advanced nurse practitioner in OBGYN and reproductive mental health in New Hampshire. “Maternal mental health conditions in the perinatal period are surpassing acute medical conditions and are the leading cause of death in the first year after birth. Seventy-five percent of mothers with symptoms go undetected.”

Palmer added, “I’m also a mom, who despite my clinical background, was part of the 1 in 5 women affected by postpartum depression and anxiety following the birth of my children.”

Last year, the New Hampshire Legislature adopted provisions of the NH MOMnibus bill, which extended Medicaid coverage for women from 60 days postpartum to one year. It also expanded coverage to doulas, lactation services, donor breast milk, services through family resource centers, and children’s behavioral health supports - all things that were out of reach to New Hampshire moms on Medicaid before the passage of the bill.

Looking forward, New Hampshire can continue to support pregnant and postpartum moms by investing in home visiting, an evidence-based model where a healthcare provider goes to a pregnant person’s home to offer support and education during and after pregnancy. Currently, not every pregnant person in New Hampshire has access to home visits due to barriers such as funding and geographic location.

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At this morning’s gathering, a variety of maternal mental health advocates applauded the Governor’s proclamation:

“When drafting the proclamation this year it was so important to recognize the whole week instead of just one day to highlight the important work being done with many stakeholders around the state. We can all do our part to support our mothers and families in NH and to prevent maternal deaths here. I have seen the progress over the past few years and I am hopeful for the future with so many initiatives in the state.” said Heather Martin, Maternal Mental Health Advocate/Coordinator for Dartmouth Health

“As we kick off Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, I feel hopeful because we’ve started to shine a light on and have tough conversations about what maternal mental health actually looks like here in the Granite State. The inconvenient truth is that access to supports and culturally competent care for new moms and birthing people in New Hampshire are hard to come by. Across the nation, maternal mental health conditions are the most common complication of pregnancy and birth, affecting over 800,000 women each year in the U.S. - but - all is not lost. As a grassroots organization of moms, we’re advocating for change and support systems that uplift every mother, every family, and every community. Together, we can make sure that no mom walks this journey alone, and that every voice is heard, every struggle acknowledged, and every solution pursued.” said MacKenzie Nicholson, Senior Director for MomsRising New Hampshire

For far too long, we have allowed preventable deaths, life-altering complications, and untreated mental health and substance use disorders to persist for our NH moms. Moms are coming together and working across the aisle to tackle the challenges that moms and their families face in our state. As a mom myself, I know that motherhood and pregnancy can be some of the most wonderful times of a person’s life. But the joys of bringing a new life into the world can also bring serious and often preventable health complications when mothers do not have the right support. We can and must do better by New Hampshire Moms. Every Granite Stater deserves to have a safe, dignified pregnancy and birth, and equitable access to maternal health care before, during, and after pregnancy. Every family deserves a healthy foundation and a healthy start.” said Senator Becky Whitley, District 15

Maternal mental health is not just one day. Moms need us thinking about how to care for them and their families every single day. It’s absolutely critical that lawmakers, advocates, and families come together to create, enact, and implement key solutions for New Hampshire families to ensure that we have a bright future. This session in 2024, New Futures in coordination with advocates have supported two critical bills that would continue the work of 2023’s MOMnibus bill: Senate Bill 337 and Senate Bill 349. SB 337 creates an advisory board and certification process for doulas and lactation service providers to help broaden access to these key services. SB 349 instructs the Wellness and Primary Prevention Council to study how we can achieve universal access to voluntary home visiting, which is so essential to moms and babies in New Hampshire.” said Rebecca Woitkowski, Child and Family Policy Director for New Futures




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