Massachusetts Medical Society: MCPAP for Moms: Addressing Perinatal Depression for Maternal/Child Health

MCPAP for Moms: Addressing Perinatal Depression for Maternal/Child Health

One out of every eight women experiences depression during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum. Undiagnosed and untreated perinatal depression can have devastating effects on mothers, infants, children, and families. One mother who suffered from postpartum depression for more than a year without treatment recounted, “My daughter was born and she felt like a stranger. I was so excited to have her, but when she came... All I wanted to do was avoid her. I had no idea what I had and stayed like that for over a year. I feel so guilty that I was not available to my daughter in that first year.”

Considering this mother’s experience, it is not surprising that perinatal depression negatively impacts birth, infant, and child outcomes. It can also be tragic; maternal suicide causes 20 percent of postpartum deaths in depressed women.

Despite the availability of effective evidence-based treatments and frequent contact with medical providers, most perinatal patients who screen positive for depression do not receive treatment. Providers are hampered by fear of liability, discomfort, and lack of resources. These barriers are magnified by stigma, fear, and discomfort among mothers.

A new statewide program, Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP) for Moms, aims to minimize these barriers by helping providers effectively prevent, identify, and manage depression in pregnant and postpartum women. The program draws on the successful outcomes of the MCPAP, created in 2005 to help pediatricians manage children’s psychiatric needs.

MCPAP for Moms has three core components:

  1. Trainings and toolkits for providers based on evidence-based guidelines for depression screening, triage and referral, risks and benefits of medications, and discussion of screening results and treatment options
  2. Real-time psychiatric telephone consultation and care coordination for health care providers serving pregnant and postpartum women, including obstetricians, pediatricians, adult primary care physicians, and psychiatrists
  3. Linkages with community-based resources, such as mental health care, support groups, and other resources to support pregnant and postpartum women

Funded by the state mental health department, MCPAP for Moms is currently conducting trainings and webinars across Massachusetts. Starting in July, providers will be able to call a toll-free number to speak with a care coordinator, who works with the provider to determine their needs — psychiatric care consultation, community care coordination, or both — and assist in care delivery and coordination for their patients.

For more information contact: MCPAP for Moms. Nancy Byatt, D.O., M.B.A., F.A.P.M., medical director,; Kathleen Biebel, Ph.D., program director,

—Kathleen Biebel, Ph.D., and Nancy Byatt, D.O. 
MCPAP for Moms

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