A New Mental Health Hotline for Pregnant Women and Mothers

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched a telephone hotline for pregnant women and new mothers who are dealing with mental health challenges.

The Maternal Mental Health Hotline has counselors available to provide mental health support and was launched on Mother’s Day. The hotline is confidential and is a toll-free phone call. Trained counselors will be staffing the hotline to provide mental health support. The hotline can also accept text messages as well as voice phone calls or TTY calls, which are used by people who are speech or hearing impaired.

Callers to the hotline can receive a range of support that includes short interventions from the counselors. These counselors are trained on how to work with someone who is going through trauma and they are also understanding of cultural issues surrounding pregnancy, maternity, and mental health. They can refer callers to  community-based or telehealth providers as needed, according to HHS. Callers will receive information about mental health issues and referrals to support groups and other community resources.

The hotline is accessible by phone or text at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746) in English and Spanish. TTY Users can use a preferred relay service or dial 711 and then 1-833-943-5746.

However, the Maternal Mental Health Hotline is not intended to be an emergency response line. If you are in a behavioral health crisis or if you are considering suicide, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

“This new Maternal Mental Health Hotline will not only advance our priorities of tackling the nation’s mental health crisis, but also support our efforts to ensure healthy pregnancies and support new parents,” Xavier Becerra, Secretary for Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

“Today, we are creating a safe space for expecting and new moms who are experiencing maternal depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns to have confidential conversations and get the support they need,” said Carole Johnson, head of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the division of HHS that is running the hotline. “Moms can call or text 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS and connect with a counselor at no charge. We are going to continue to grow our investments in this resource, as we know it’s what women need.”

Mental health issues during pregnancy and new motherhood can be serious. During pregnancy, you may go through mood swings and even start crying for no apparent reason. This is normal. But feeling sad or nervous, or anxious for many weeks or all the time is not normal. Being pregnant can make underlying mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder get worse. Women who are very depressed or anxious might not be able to care for themselves or their baby well.

Postpartum depression occurs after a baby is born. It is a serious mood disorder that can include feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion that can interfere with a mother’s ability to care for herself, her baby, or the rest of her family. The mildest form of postpartum depression is sometimes called the “baby blues,” which can start within a few days of childbirth and usually lasts a couple of weeks.

Symptoms of postpartum depression can include mood swings, anger and irritability, fatigue, excessive crying, inability to bond with your baby, and anxiety, worry and fear. These symptoms may start to show up in the first few weeks after childbirth and can get worse. Postpartum depression can include panic attacks or intrusive or disturbing thoughts or images and uncontrollable fears of harming yourself or harming your baby.

The most severe form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis, which is very rare, but symptoms can include agitation, confusion, and hallucinations.

Postpartum depression is not just an issue for women who have given birth. It can occur in new fathers and in adoptive parents.

According to Pospartundepression.org, between 1 and 7 or 1 and 19 women will develop postpartum depression after giving birth. This means that around 600,000 women a year could develop postpartum depression. It generally lasts from three to six months. Eighty percent of people with postpartum depression will fully recover.

You can read several Pregistry blog posts about postpartum depression here.

The Maternal Mental Health Hotline is being funded by an initial $3 million investment. The Biden Administration’s 2023 budget, if passed, will more than double this amount and allow the program to grow.

In addition to the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, HHS has other resources that can help pregnant women and new mothers. It runs websites about mental health and substance abuse and safety from violence and abuse, both of which have linked to information and help.  It also runs MentalHealth.gov.

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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