San Francisco women receive the best care during the perinatal period when mental health disorders can harm both mother and child.
“.... by making mental health services available as part of their obstetrics care, we’re able to intervene early and effectively.”
Approximately 20 percent of women suffer from depression, anxiety, or both while pregnant or after giving birth. Mental health disorders are the most common medical complication affecting women during the perinatal period. These disorders are higher in prevalence in minority populations, and the rates increase to approximately 50 percent for those with low socio-economic status. Despite these alarming numbers, very few women receive behavioral health treatment. Untreated perinatal mental health complications can lead to negative health outcomes for the mother and disrupt the early mother-child attachment and bonding period. That disruption is in turn associated with medical, cognitive, and emotional problems in the children. Fortunately, these conditions are treatable. In 2019, Episcopal Impact Fund’s Brotherton Fund with CPMC responded to the community’s needs by funding an integrated Perinatal Mental Healthcare Program in CPMC’s Mission Bernal Women’s Clinic. This innovative collaboration between the Women’s Clinic and the CPMC Department of Psychiatry provides psychological and psychiatric services for women at no cost. “The key to our approach is to reduce the barriers that prevent our most vulnerable patients from accessing the essential care they need,” says Dr. Jeremy Bornstein, Director of Psychology Training at CPMC, “and by making mental health services available as part of their obstetrics care, we’re able to intervene early and effectively.” During Covid, the clinic pivoted to providing most services via phone and video visits which further reduced the barriers to access for the most vulnerable mothers. In just the last four months, the team has provided care to over 100 patients who were referred by Women’s Clinic providers. One of these patients was a young Hispanic woman who is pregnant with her first child and experiencing panic attacks that were both debilitating to the patient and potentially harmful to her baby. The mental health team was able to assess the anxiety that she has been experiencing, and provide her an intervention that significantly reduced her symptoms, improved her engagement with the medical team, and connected her to ongoing support in her community. This is just one example of the many Women’s Clinic patients who have benefitted from the mental health services provided by the Episcopal Impact Fund.