Expansion of Perinatal Services Supports Screenings, Treatment for New Moms in Pennsylvania

Pregnancy and the postpartum period of motherhood are times of great joy and great change. 

With this change can come stress, fear, and anxiety that can fuel feelings of depression and isolation and invasive thoughts. Alarmingly, nearly 60 percent of pregnancy-associated deaths happen between 42 days and one year after giving birth. Since taking office, Governor Wolf has prioritized expanding access to health care and supportive services that help parents through pregnancy and the postpartum period and gives children a strong, healthy start that can lead to continued good health, well-being and positive outcomes throughout their lives.

In 2020, the CDC released the first maternal mortality rates for the United States in roughly 10 years. It showed that the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world. The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world whose mothers are dying at a higher rate than 25 years ago.

Pennsylvania mothers deserve more.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is taking a close look at maternal health practices. The American Rescue Plan Act allows states to implement a new Medicaid state plan option beginning in April 2022 that will expand the Medicaid coverage period for new moms to one year after giving birth. This extension will help mothers continue to access physical and behavioral health care necessary to keep themselves healthy and their families on a path to good health and well-being.

  • About 3 in 10 births nationwide are paid for through Medicaid, but traditionally, coverage for people who qualify because they are pregnant ends 60 days following the birth of a baby unless their income or circumstances change.
  • In Pennsylvania, pregnancy-related deaths grew by more than 21 percent between 2013 and 2018.
    Nationally, about 12 percent of pregnancy-related deaths occur between six weeks and one year postpartum, but almost 60 percent of those are preventable.
    Black women are almost two times more likely than white women to die after giving birth.
  • Perinatal depression is the most common complication during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
    1 in 7 women experience depression during or following a pregnancy, but too often it can go undiagnosed.

The Wolf Administration and DHS are committed to improving the extent and quality of care for Pennsylvania families, especially our most vulnerable through a delicate and crucial period of their lives. The expansion of Medicaid initiative is part of a myriad of supports DHS has in progress to support perinatal and parenting families, which includes increasing maternal depression screenings and follow-through care, expanding home-visiting care and use of doulas, and engaging fathers as advocates and partners for mothers and children.

The Wolf Administration also recently announced that Pennsylvania will opt-in to extended postpartum coverage for birthing parents covered through Medicaid due to their pregnancy. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, states are able to extend the Medicaid postpartum coverage period from just 60 days to one year after giving birth.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Motherhood is a big step, and with life changes come stress, fear and anxiety. All of us can take steps to improve our mental health. This looks different for everyone. Perhaps you’d like to talk to someone, focus more on self care, consider medication, and/or seek other treatments. There are options to help you.

Crisis Help

  • CALL 911: If there is an immediate risk of endangering oneself or others, contact 911. Inform the operator that you are calling about a mental health crisis.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text PA to 741741 to start the conversation 24/7
  • Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
    • If you or someone you care about is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the Lifeline. (Español: 888-628-9454)

PA Crisis Hotlines: Find a crisis line in your county.PA Resources

  • PA Support & Referral Hotline: 1-855-284-2494 (TTY:724-631-5600)
    The Department of Human Services’ mental health support and referral helpline is available 24/7 and is a free resource staffed by skilled and compassionate caseworkers available to counsel Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions.
  •  Call 2-1-1: The United Way of Pennsylvania can connect you to help in your area; Search crisis services, hotlines, and warmlines near you.
  •  Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR)  
    A group of volunteers focused exclusively on setting guidelines and benchmarks for trauma-informed care across the commonwealth.
  • Get Help Now Helpline — 1-800-662-HELP (4357)  A toll-free helpline maintained through the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) that connects callers looking for substance use treatment options for themselves or a loved one to resources in their community. Calls are anonymous and available 24/7.