USU UWLP Sheds Light on Maternal Mental Health Challenges

FIE PHOTO: Young woman suffering from postnatal depression near bed with baby at home

LOGAN – The Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP) has released a report highlighting the rise in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) in Utah. PMADs are a range of disorders that can occur during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum, including postpartum depression and anxiety. It is estimated that one in eight women in the US report postpartum depression symptoms.

The report aims to raise awareness among patients and healthcare providers about PMADs, which are often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Susan Madsen, founding director of the UWLP, said that PMADs can negatively affect maternal health and increase societal costs. They can also impact the mother-infant relationship and the health and development of the child. In the most severe cases, PMADs are associated with maternal suicide, the second leading cause of death of postpartum women in the US.

The report cites Utah data from 2021 which suggests that the rate of postpartum depression symptoms has risen from an estimated 13 – 15% to 16.2%. The Utah Department of Health and Human Services published a report based on the 2017–2019 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitory System (PRAMS) survey, which showed that 42.8% of Utah women who delivered a live infant reported depression or anxiety symptoms before pregnancy, during the prenatal period, or during the postpartum period.

Younger mothers reported postpartum depression symptoms more frequently than older mothers did, and research suggests that one in 10 fathers also experience symptoms of depression or anxiety in the postpartum period.

The report lists several risk factors for PMADs, including being unmarried, living at or below the federal poverty level, having no college education, and experiencing a difficult or traumatic pregnancy, labor, or delivery. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides screening recommendations to assist with PMAD prevention.

To support maternal mental health in Utah, several organizations operate specialized clinics that serve women with PMADs, including the Utah Maternal Mental Health Referral Network and the Utah chapter of Postpartum Support International. The Emily Effect, a Utah foundation, also provides resources and a platform for women to share their stories.

The report authors recommend continued research to inform policy and practice and improve PMADs screening rates and access to quality care. Madsen urged policymakers, providers, friends, and extended family to support mothers experiencing PMADs and reduce the stigma surrounding maternal mental health.

The full report, along with references, can be accessed here. For more information on UWLP programs and projects, visit

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