Help is tough to find for low-income women facing post-partum depression

    About one in ten women is affected by post-partum depression. If not treated, it can make it tough for these women to care for themselves and their children. A new report finds that low-income women in Philadelphia face long delays in getting help.

    Researchers at Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition examined care options for low-income women with post-partum depression, and found several road blocks.

    Only one hospital in the city screens all women for post-partum depression after giving birth, so many women are unaware they have a problem. And for those seeking treatment, getting into care is another big hurdle.

    Kenyette Barnes-Higgs is mental health coordinator with the Maternity Care Coalition and conducted the research.

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    “Women have extremely long wait times there’s a cumbersome intake system and a lot of women are just not getting care because the system is so difficult to navigate,” said Barnes-Higgs. Getting an appointment to see a therapist for post-partum depression means several referrals and paper work that takes time to process. She added that wait times to finally get into treatment can be as long as 22 weeks. During that time, a depressed woman’s condition could worsen considerably.

    Bette Begleiter of the maternity care coalition said integrating physical and mental health services would streamline a system that’s currently cumbersome to navigate: “Having services for women at their health care provider for example, or having screening at the pediatrician because a lot of women we work with – they may not be getting to their health care appointment, but they are getting the baby to the ‘well baby’ appointment.”

    Maternity Care Coalition is working with Philadelphia’s department of behavioral health to increase screening and train more providers to be able to treat post-partum depression.

    Penn Psychiatry is expanding its mental health services at the Helen Dickens Center, which provides OBGYN care for low-income women.

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