In a progressive era of ongoing advancements in workplace policies, a critical area continues to demand attention: maternal care. The alarming rise of postpartum depression among new mothers serves as an undeniable and poignant reminder of the pressing need for comprehensive support systems.

Postpartum Depression

The National Institute of Health estimates that between 6-20% of women will struggle with postpartum depression. When left untreated, this condition casts shadows over families, impacting not only the well-being of mothers but also the productivity and morale of workplaces.

Employers must embrace the responsibility to uplift and assist working mothers, creating an environment of unwavering support and compassion that bolsters the collective strength of the entire workforce.

This article covers the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working mothers, the importance of holistic support in the workplace, and the role of employers in postpartum depression treatment.

Pressed for time? Here’s a quick summary…

  • The COVID-19 pandemic amplified societal expectations and introduced unique challenges for new mothers, contributing to the rise of postpartum depression.
  • There is a pressing need for benefits beyond paid parental leave for working mothers, with an emphasis on holistic support prioritizing mental health care, work-life balance, and flexibility.
  • A comprehensive support plan for new mothers grappling with postpartum depression should encompass a combination of therapy, along with case management programs specifically tailored to maternal health.

The COVID-19 Impact On Maternal Care 

The COVID-19 Impact On Maternal Care

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated challenges faced by pregnant women and working mothers. Despite progress towards gender equality, some still cling to the belief that women should shoulder a disproportionate burden of household and familial responsibilities. The combination of remote work and limited childcare options left many of these women mentally exhausted amidst a 24/7 juggling act.

In the first year of the pandemic, national rates of postpartum depression increased from 6.5 to 6.9%. Life-altering responsibilities, societal expectations, and pandemic-related restrictions had a particularly tolling impact on new mothers, contributing to this rise. For example, the absence of their partners during appointments and even childbirth can heighten their vulnerability.

Like other mental health disorders, postpartum depression is treatable. Yet, according to the Evernorth Research Institute, 46.5% of women did not receive treatment for this condition during the pandemic.

Urvashi Patel, Vice President of Data and Analytics at the Evernorth Research Institute, illustrates the emotional impact of the pandemic:

“The pandemic changed the health care experience for many pregnant women, and the gulf between expectation and reality could have affected a woman’s emotional response during this time.”

Why Childcare Is A Business Issue

Despite these challenges, the shift to virtual health care made accessing primary care physicians and therapists more convenient. This presented an advantage for women seeking care from the comfort of their homes. Accessible and affordable mental health care options, including virtual solutions, enable new mothers to receive support and ensure their well-being regardless of location.

Importance Of Holistic Support In The Workplace

Supporting new mothers not only impacts their health but also their retention and productivity.

“If women are in distress, or having difficulty coping with their responsibilities both at home or at work, this can impact if they even return to work at all”

Urvashi Patel, Vice President of Data and Analytics at the Evernorth Research Institute
parental leave image

While a quarter of private employers offer paid parental leave, it’s evident that this number is disappointingly low. The first crucial step towards creating comprehensive maternal support systems is to substantially increase the adoption of paid parental leave among employers. By doing so, they lay the foundation for an environment that prioritizes mental health care, work-life balance, and flexibility, ultimately contributing to enhanced employee productivity, loyalty, and well-being.

Beyond parental leave, consider offering the following benefits for new and/or working mothers as parts of a broader package:

  • Flexible work arrangements can improve work-life balance, offering the freedom to meet family obligations without sacrificing professional growth. Remote work, for instance, creates more opportunities for quality family time by eliminating commutes and providing a safe space for mothers to care for their children.
  • Dedicated lactation rooms are essential for normalizing breastfeeding and removing potential barriers or discomfort associated with nursing. These rooms should go beyond meeting minimum requirements and offer a genuinely quiet, private, and comfortable environment for pumping mothers to feel supported.
  • Parental support programs, such as workshops or support groups, offer a platform for new and working parents to share experiences, seek guidance, and access relevant resources, fostering a sense of community and combating feelings of isolation.
  • On-site childcare, while not feasible for all companies, is a reliable and affordable option for working parents, easing their stress, and enticing many of them back to the workforce.
  • Subsidized childcare may be a more viable alternative to on-site childcare, supporting parents with financial assistance for quality services.

These measures make work-life balance more manageable, promoting the well-being of new and/or working mothers while boosting satisfaction and retention. By creating an environment where this group feels valued and supported, they are empowered to excel both in their parental role and as employees.

Treatment Of Postpartum Depression & The Role Of Employers

Treatment Of Postpartum Depression & The Role of Employers

While emotional changes are expected after giving birth, postpartum depression can have lasting effects that impact a woman’s ability to care for her child and handle daily tasks. This underscores the significant role employers can play in supporting new mothers.

The most effective approach for treating postpartum depression involves a combination of therapy and medication, yet only 7.5% of women receive both types of treatment. To address this gap, employers must avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and include various options within their benefits package.

Treatment Of Postpartum Depression & The Role of Employers

Additionally, case management programs tailored to maternal health enable quick diagnosis of postpartum depression and provide impactful support. When employees work with dedicated case managers trained to identify and address mental health issues, they can receive effective behavioral health care and expert guidance to navigate this challenging transition into motherhood.

By actively supporting maternal mental health during significant life changes, employers can make a positive difference in the experiences of working mothers. Providing comprehensive benefits that cover diverse treatment options and case management programs enables women to receive the timely diagnosis and support they need.

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