May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

Published:  May 9, 2018

As part of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month this May, the Department of Health Services encourages providers to become educated about maternal mental health disorders, such as postpartum depression. We want providers to understand it is both a prevalent and undertreated issue: One in five women will suffer from a maternal mental health disorder in the United States and only fifteen percent of women will receive treatment for a maternal mental health (MMH) disorder.

Unrealistic expectations and myths about what it means to be a good mom flood the minds of some of the best mothers and cause moms to judge themselves through an unrealistic lens. It is especially hard for women suffering from a MMH disorder who suffer silently; many feel there must be something terribly wrong with them for feeling something so different from those expectations. 

Common myths of motherhood: 

  • To be a good mom you have to love being a mom all the time.
  • Moms never need help.
  • I wasn’t a good mom because I couldn’t breastfeed.
  • I am not a good mom because my baby’s birth didn’t go well – or my body failed.
  • I had to go back to work too early and that makes me a bad mom.
  • I had to take an antidepressant after I had my baby and that makes me a bad mom.
  • Other mothers are better moms because they look like they have it all together.

Many providers and clinics do not include a maternal mental health screening as a routine part of visits. Even without a screening tool in place, simply asking mothers about how they are feeling during a visit could make all the difference. The goal is to destigmatize mental health issues mothers may be experiencing so they seek help. Asking your patients how they are feeling and letting them know MMH issues are very common can make all the difference in their willingness to seek and accept help. 

If your patients need support, you can refer them to:

  • 24-hour Sonoma County Emergency Mental Health Hotline: (800) 746-8181
  • Postpartum Support International Warmline (800) 944-4773 (4PPD) (se habla español)
  • 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255


The prevalence of maternal mental health disorders is often surprising to many providers. In Sonoma County:

  • Nearly 1/3 of women reported they needed help for emotional/mental health problems or use of alcohol/drugs.1
  • Pregnant women with a mental health diagnosis were hospitalized nearly 2.5 times the California average.2
  • From 2005-2013, the number of emergency department visits for women with mood disorders has increased by 4 times.2
  • 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression in the United States.3

1 California Health Interview Survey, 2011-2015.
2 Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, 2002-2013.
3 Journal of the American Medical Association, 2013.

The Perinatal Mental Health Partnership (now a part of the Perinatal Alliance collaborative) is a collaborative focused on promoting prevention, early identification and access to treatment for families experiencing Perinatal Mood Disorders. The collaborative also strives to raise community awareness about the prevalence of Perinatal Mood Disorders, and augment the availability of community supports and services, that increase family resiliency and strength.

Contact Information

Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health

Public Health Division

Department of Health Services

County of Sonoma

Mail Address

Public Health Division

625 5th Street

Santa Rosa, CA 95404

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