Behavioral Health Care for New Mothers in HUSKY A

Back • Publication Date: July 9th, 2009

Authors: Mary Alice Lee, PhD, Karen Sautter, MPH, and Amanda Learned, BA

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Mental health problems and substance use and abuse are relatively common during pregnancy and the postpartum period, especially among low-income women. The HUSKY A (Medicaid) program provides care for a significant number of women of reproductive age, including pregnant women and new mothers. Based on the use of health care services in the year following birth, this study estimated the treatment prevalence of mental disorders and substance-related disorders among new mothers in HUSKY A and described the use of behavioral health services.

Nearly one in five new mothers (19.4%) received behavioral health services in the year after giving birth, a rate higher than the comparison group of all women 16 to 39 in HUSKY A (18.0%). About 9 percent of new mothers received treatment for mood disorders, including depression, a rate nearly equal to that for the comparison group, but considerably less than prevalence estimates based on national data. Over 5 percent of new mothers received treatment for substance-related disorders, a rate higher than that for the comparison group, but less than prevalence estimates based on national data. The number of visits for treatment of substance-related disorders was disproportionately high for new mothers, who were more likely than women in the comparison group to have been treated for these behavioral health problems. New mothers were less likely than women 16 to 39 to have had emergency care or to have been hospitalized for treatment of mental disorders and substance-related disorders.

The need for mental health services is high among the HUSKY A population; however, service use may be considerably low in proportion to those needs. Comprehensive risk assessment and screening for maternal risk behaviors and mental health between pregnancies can lead to identification of risk factors that can be addressed prior to the next pregnancy.