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Maternal Mental Health: You Are Not Alone

Even though maternal mental health struggles are commonplace, they are not always easy to talk about.

by Jennifer Christian-Herman, Ph.D., vice president of Clinical Strategy and Programs at Blue Shield of California and board member of the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health | This news story is also available in Spanish.


One in five birthing people* experience conditions like postpartum depression, anxiety and substance abuse — yet nearly 75% of those individuals go untreated. Even though maternal mental health struggles are commonplace, they are not always easy to talk about  — which is why it is especially important to bring attention to the mental health experiences impacting millions of people before, during and after pregnancy.

At Blue Shield of California, we believe mental health care should be a standard part of maternal care. We are committed to helping our members and their families receive better education and consistent care throughout their reproductive journeys, so they know what to watch for, and when and how to seek help.

Maternal mental health challenges

Individuals should be evaluated for depression and anxiety symptoms before, during and after pregnancy, but not all health systems or providers screen regularly or consistently. Unfortunately, there are multiple barriers to quality maternal mental health treatment in the U.S., including:

Jennifer Christian-Herman, Blue Shield of Calfornia
  • Stigma associated with mental health. Shame around mental health can lead to isolation, with sufferers opting to ‘deal with it’ on their own without seeking therapeutic intervention, which can worsen symptoms. Pregnant or postpartum people may blame themselves or feel guilt about the symptoms they’re experiencing.
  • People are scared of what may happen if they share. More extreme symptoms, such as thoughts of suicide or intrusive thoughts about harming the baby, can be terrifying to disclose. Individuals may have concern about being separated from their child if they share these feelings with their loved ones or care team.
  • Gaps in access to maternal mental health. Birthing individuals may want help, but find it difficult to access the care they need. Seventy percent of U.S. counties lack sufficient maternal mental health resources.

Making maternal mental health care more accessible

Maternal mental health is a priority for Blue Shield of California and is available through all of our health plans. We emphasize mental health screenings and follow-up, collaborating with providers to ensure they have the tools they need to understand screening results and know what to do when a member needs mental health services. We offer mental health care both in person and through virtual care.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or anxiety before or after birth, reach out to your health care provider – whether it be your primary care provider, obstetrician, mental health care provider or even your baby’s pediatrician.

Blue Shield of California also offers Maven, a virtual clinic for women's and family health, at no additional cost to most members. Maven offers virtual appointments with clinical practitioners and coaches, including lactation consultants, doulas, sleep coaches, career coaches and more. Members are also paired with a dedicated Care Advocate, who can help them connect with mental health specialists when needed. Virtual care can be especially useful for busy parents. Upon enrollment, Maven will verify eligibility. You can also reach out to the Member Services number on the back of your Blue Shield Member ID card to confirm eligibility.

Sixty percent of surveyed Blue Shield members enrolled in Maven reported improvement in mental health, and 74% said they were more productive at work while pregnant after utilizing Maven resources. Compared to Blue Shield members who did not use Maven, those enrolled in the program experienced better health outcomes:

  • 10% reduction in emergency department visits
  • 39% reduction in neonatal intensive care (NICU) stays.
  • 60% reduction in inpatient days unrelated to delivery

Maven provides support, including mental health support, to people at all stages in the pregnancy journey — those considering children, those going through fertility challenges, new parents, pregnant people, and those who have suffered pregnancy loss or miscarriage. After losing a baby, people may feel ashamed and may not have the space or opportunity to talk about their experiences. While every pregnancy loss is different, feelings of shock and grief are common while processing the experience. Through Maven, members have 24/7 access to mental health providers who can help individuals and their families as they process and grieve.

Every practitioner I've met with, every article I've read, and every aspect of Maven emits empathy and incredible knowledge. Maven, as a whole, just seems to get it and genuinely wants to help each parent on their journey. It feels like every practitioner I've encountered on Maven sees me and my pregnancy as a unique experience and treats me like a person, not just a patient – Melissa, Blue Shield member


We hope to help break the stigma for birthing people and families who are struggling with mental health challenges. Know that you are not alone, and there are resources accessible for all Blue Shield of California members to help. 

If you are concerned about your mental health, you can also reach out to your doctor, OB-GYN, or call or text the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262).

 *Birthing people is defined as someone who gives birth, regardless of their gender identity.