Getting Moms in Mom/Baby Groups is Incredibly Helpful
1. Women have a basic need to talk with each other.
2. Peer connection (and reduction of isolation) during the postpartum period is particularly important and can be protective against depression (or worsening depression)
3. These groups can take the form of Mommy and Me classes where the basics of baby care, sleep, etc. are taught by an instructor (offered through parks and rec departments, baby/mom stores, or new mom fitness walking/groups)
4. We would love to see insurers reimburse for these types of classes when offered through a medical provider like a hospital education department or even behavioral health providers.
The scalable models for this type of support in the postpartum currently, is the MotherWoman support group model which addresses the struggles of modern motherhood and Fit4Mom (formerly Stroller Strides) which involves getting mothers out to exercise together.
We believe employers will be critical in influencing coverage, and that rather than employers offering these services independent of their health benefit plans, that employers should encourage insurers to bake these services into their health benefit plans, given the research suggesting positive health outcomes and so that all women covered under insurance plans will benefit.
Maternal Mental Health Support Groups
1. Generally support groups for maternal mental health disorders are geared toward mothers in the postpartum period and geared toward depression, vs. anxiety, however mothers with anxiety are not excluded. For several reasons, mothers with postpartum psychosis should not be receiving support in a group setting, and should receive immediate medical care.
2. Generally these groups are offered by a licensed behavioral health clinician who is in private practice, and clinicians are able to bill the behavioral health insurer for such services. Hospitals may also offer these support groups and generally do not bill but rather receive funding through internal hospital community benefits programs, or administrators simply allow a clinician (generally an RN or LCSW) to run these programs on staff time. Postpartum Support International has partnered with Support Groups Central to offer on-line support groups.
3. Generally these groups are open groups, they don't require registration and don't start and end on a certain date.
4. Some offer child care, most allow and encourage mothers to bring their infants.
We have found that generally these groups are not sustainable because of low attendance.
Generally speaking we believe of the two types of support groups, the Mom/Baby vs. maternal mental health support groups provide more benefit, in terms of providing critical social support (and reducing isolation), than attempting MMH support groups which as noted above are not well attended (likely for a number of reasons) and generally not sustainable.