Policy Advisor Sara Howard offers policy options on maternal depression

by | Oct 22, 2021

Maternal depression is the most common pregnancy and postpartum complication in America, impacting one in every seven women who cease to be pregnant.[1] Even with those statistics, many provider groups agree that this condition remains underdiagnosed, which means even more mothers than we realize may be suffering from depression. Equally critical is the impact of maternal depression on babies. Postpartum depression is often linked to issues with infants ranging from failure to thrive, attachment disorders and developmental delays.[2] In short, when mothers struggle with their mental health, the impact on their children can be long-lasting.

Earlier this month, Policy Advisor Sara Howard testified at the Nebraska Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee hearing on LR142, State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh’s interim study on maternal depression. Along with FFN, in-person testifiers included Children’s Hospital, the Nebraska Medical Association, the Nebraska Hospital Association, the Nebraska Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative, the American Academy of Pediatricians – Nebraska Chapter, March of Dimes, the Wellbeing Initiative, the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Providers and the Nebraska Children’s Home Society. Letters were submitted on behalf of the Omaha Women’s Fund, the Douglas County Health Department, the Nebraska Family Practice Physicians and the Health Center Association of Nebraska.

First Five Nebraska offered senators several policy options as they look toward addressing maternal depression in Nebraska:

  1. Screen for maternal depression at every well-child visitNebraska is one of only seven states that does not recommend or mandate a screen at the well-child visit at one, two, four and six months;
  2. Require a validated maternal depression screening tool be utilized – Using a standard tool will help streamline maternal depression screenings and improve monitoring;
  3. Allow a primary caregiver other than a mother to be screened for depression during a well-child visit – 14 states allow screening of fathers, partners and primary caregivers other than a mother for depression at the well-child visit;
  4. Extend postpartum coverage for mothers who receive coverage through Medicaid – Currently, Medicaid coverage stops at 60 days. The federal government is offering a state plan amendment for an extension of that coverage for a year. This would allow a new mother to be screened and covered for needed services during the first year of her child’s life.

Read FFN’s testimony on LR142

Transcript of the hearing on LR102 (p. 19)


[1] Susan Kendig, et al., “Consensus Bundle on Maternal Mental Health,” Obstetrics & Gynecology, (March 2017).
[2] Kuntz, L. (2020). Pregnancy and Postpartum Suicide Risk: The New Numbers. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/pregnancy-and-postpartum-suicide-risk-the-new-numbers

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