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Summer Premier of the APA Looking Beyond Maternal Mental Health Series

  • November 14, 2023
  • Diversity News and Updates
pregnant mother meeting doctor

By Madonna Delfish, M.P.H.

According to recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, perinatal psychiatric disorders are the leading cause of pregnancy deaths in the United States. In a statement, the CDC urged policymakers and health providers to prioritize perinatal mental health.

Birthing people of color people persistently experience higher rates of perinatal mood disorders and encounter more systemic and social barriers to accessing maternal mental health services compared to White birthing people. However, despite the higher burden of mental health symptoms among this population, birthing people of color are more likely to be underdiagnosed and are less likely to have access to equitable and culturally congruent mental healthcare.

To help address this issue, APA's Division of Diversity and Health Equity designed and piloted a summer webinar series as part of APA's Mental Health Equity Looking Beyond Webinar Series. This mini-series focused on maternal mental health and provided a unique learning opportunity for psychiatrists, frontline maternal health providers, and maternal mental health clinicians to help address some of the gaps in information and training. The mini-series focused the information and training through a mental health equity lens that works in tandem with the ongoing efforts to address the overall maternal health crisis in the United States.

This short series received overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, with many noting the timeliness and importance of the topics covered across the series.

"This was one of the best Looking Beyond Seminars... love the focus on bringing the partners and family into planning during the pregnancy." (Anonymous attendee feedback).

View on-demand recordings and learn more at

This four-part webinar series included the following topics:

A Conversation on the Current Maternal Mental Health Screening Tools: Are They Culturally Appropriate?

In this webinar, the panelists discussed how culture impacts patients' perceptions of maternal mental health, help-seeking behaviors, and retention of care. They further explored the cultural applicability of the available validated instruments for screening for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).

Speakers: Leena P. Mittal, M.D., IBCLC; Jabina Coleman, L.S.W., M.S.W.; Sara Kornfield, Ph.D.; Alexis Wesley.

Birthing People of Color Who May Be Reluctant to Start Psycho-pharmacological Treatment: How to Navigate This Challenge

In this session, the presenters reviewed some of the common mental health challenges in the perinatal period. They discussed the creative ways providers can discuss the risks associated with pharmacological treatment interventions with their diverse patient populations and explored culturally appropriate strategies to help providers educate patients on available treatment options.

Speakers: Lucy Hutner, M.D.; Linda Ojo, M.D., M.P.H.; Polina Teslyar, M.D.

Addressing Gaps in Comprehensive Treatment for Birthing People of Color with Comorbid SUD: Implementing a Targeted Approach

In the third webinar of the series, our esteemed panelists addressed disparities in mental health and substance use treatment utilization among pregnant Hispanic and African American birthing individuals. They also highlighted the systematic barriers to accessing treatment among this population. Attendees received information on targeted approaches to provide culturally appropriate screening and treatment to reduce the care disparity and access to treatment among minoritized pregnant individuals with co-occurring substance use disorders. Panelists also reviewed evidence-based harm reduction strategies and best practices for treating pregnant and nursing parents.

Speakers: Caridad Ponce-Martinez, M.D.; Dennis G. Antoine, II, M.D.; Layne Gritti, D.O.

Postpartum Psychosis: Are Birthing People of Color Falling Through the Treatment Gap?

In the final installment of this series, our panelists included a postpartum psychosis survivor who bravely relayed her experience and journey to recovery and two reproductive psychiatrists who highlighted the early signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis. They discussed the factors that place birthing people of color at risk for delayed diagnosis and treatment of postpartum psychosis. They also explored culturally congruent strategies providers can employ to support minoritized birthing persons who have experienced postpartum psychosis.

Speakers: Jennifer Okwerekwu, M.D., M.S.; Lindsay R. Standeven, M.D.; Ayana Lage.

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