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American Psychiatric Association Launches New Maternal Mental Health Effort Aimed at Identifying Clinician Training Gaps

  • April 12, 2022

Washington, D.C., April 11, 2022 — A recent study in Psychiatric Services documented that 51% of pregnant women with a major depressive episode did not receive any mental health treatment. Untreated mental illness is risky for pregnant mothers and their babies, and although the topic is generally under-researched, safe pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for pregnant women do exist. A new effort from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), led by Diana E. Clarke, Ph.D., managing director of research and senior epidemiologist/research statistician, will gauge psychiatrists’ and other mental health clinicians’ experience with and attitudes around treating pregnant women with mental and substance use disorders and identify training gaps.

The initiative, Mental Health Needs Assessment in the Management of Perinatal Psychiatric Disorders, is supported by a $447,209 grant from the CDC Foundation. As part of the initiative, APA will perform a needs assessment via focus groups of women with mental and substance use disorders before, during, or up to two years post-pregnancy. It will also survey and hold focus groups and a panel discussion with mental health professionals who treat pregnant women.

“Maternal health, and particularly maternal mental health, is an issue that has taken a back seat for far too long in the United States,” said APA President Vivian Pender, M.D. “This effort will help us better understand where our opportunities are to ensure pregnant mothers have access to the psychiatric care they need, which will lead to improved mental health outcomes for moms and their babies.”

A 20-member advisory panel of psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians with expertise in maternal mental health has been assembled to inform the project. “This is an important initiative, and I am thrilled that representatives from many mental health professional organizations and diverse backgrounds are participating on the panel to ensure a robustly informed process,” said Dr. Clarke. The project aims to update and expand existing recommendations for the mental health care of pregnant women; develop a perinatal psychiatric care toolkit for clinicians; and to formulate educational and training recommendations for behavioral health clinicians to better serve this population.

Email [email protected] for more details.

This Mental Health Needs Assessment in the Management of Perinatal Psychiatric Disorders is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $447,209 funded by the CDC/HHS.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit

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