“We can all do our part to support our mothers”: Dartmouth Health employees lead charge for proclamation of Maternal Mental Health Week in New Hampshire

Heather A. Martin, RMA, holding the Maternal Mental Health Week proclamation, is pictured with Gov. Chris Sununu and other stakeholders.
Heather A. Martin, RMA, holding the Maternal Mental Health Week proclamation, is pictured with Gov. Chris Sununu and other stakeholders.

We can all do our part to support our mothers and families here in New Hampshire and to prevent maternal deaths here.

Heather A. Martin, RMA

From the start of pregnancy until her baby’s first birthday, more than one in five mothers will experience a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. In New Hampshire, maternal mental health conditions are the primary contributing factor in maternal deaths. Despite these alarming statistics, maternal mental health concerns are under-resourced and subject to stigma in the Granite State and beyond.

At a press conference on May 7, Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) signed a proclamation establishing May 5-11 each year as Maternal Mental Health Week in New Hampshire. Experts from the New Hampshire Perinatal Quality Collaborative (NHPQC), a program of Dartmouth Health and the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services (DPHS), say that designating a week to raise awareness and diminish stigma surrounding maternal mental health is a critical step in improving the healthcare system’s ability to screen, diagnose and support women experiencing these conditions.

Heather A. Martin, RMA, a medical assistant and maternal mental health coordinator with Dartmouth Health Children’s, was instrumental in the proclamation being made. After losing her sister to suicide brought on by postpartum psychosis, Martin has dedicated her life to improving maternal mental health outcomes in her home state of New Hampshire and across America. She championed the implementation of a screening and response process for new mothers bringing their infants for check-ups at her practice to determine if the mother is in need of mental health supports.

“When drafting the proclamation this year, it was so important to recognize the whole week instead of just one day, in order to highlight all of the important work being done with many stakeholders around the state,” Martin said. “We can all do our part to support our mothers and families here in New Hampshire and to prevent maternal deaths here. I have seen the progress over the past few years, and I am hopeful for the future with so many initiatives in the state.”

One of NHPQC’s key initiatives, in collaboration with DPHS, is implementing the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Alliance for Implementation of Maternal Innovation (AIM). AIM’s Perinatal Mental Health Conditions program targets improving systems and educating healthcare providers to recognize and respond to women struggling with perinatal mental health conditions.

“The NHPQC is focused on building community perinatal coalitions,” said Julie S. Bosak, DrPH, CNM, MSN, director of NHPQC. “These coalitions bring healthcare providers, community organizations and patients together to collaboratively create a more patient-centered response where women feel more supported throughout this timeframe.”

To learn more about NHPQC and resources available, contact NHPQC@hitchcock.org.

About Dartmouth Health

Dartmouth Health, New Hampshire's only academic health system and the state's largest private employer, serves patients across northern New England. Dartmouth Health provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, as well as across its wide network of hospitals, clinics and care facilities. DHMC is consistently named the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in numerous clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth Health includes Dartmouth Cancer Center, one of only 56 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, and the only such center in northern New England; Dartmouth Health Children’s, which includes Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the state’s only children’s hospital, and multiple clinic locations around the region; member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene and New London, NH, and Bennington and Windsor, VT; Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and more than 24 clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. Through its historical partnership with Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth Health trains nearly 400 medical residents and fellows annually, and performs cutting-edge research and clinical trials recognized across the globe with Geisel and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT. Dartmouth Health and its more than 13,000 employees are deeply committed to serving the healthcare needs of everyone in our communities, and to providing each of our patients with exceptional, personal care.