Failure to address postpartum depression can have multigenerational consequences

Amina Seck
August 6, 2019

Parents have a profound impact on their children’s health. A child’s development can be strongly affected by their parents’ health, including mental health. Women who suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), which is severe depression lasting longer than 10 days after delivery,[1] can benefit from additional parenting support. Policymakers must do more through changes to KanCare, including expanding eligibility, postpartum screening, and lengthening coverage for new mothers. With these changes, new mothers can be healthier and strengthen their ability to parent.

Women with PPD are more likely to face additional challenges to parenting, as they are less likely to:

  • Breastfeed,
  • Tell stories to or read books to their children, as well as play with them
  • Take their children to doctor visits, and
  • Have their children use a car seat.[2], [3]

Nationally, nearly one in five (19 percent) new mothers have PPD. However, low-income women of color are twice as likely to have PPD (38 percent) than the national average.[4], [5] Low-income mothers face additional barriers, including financial stress, lower rates of breastfeeding, and access to health care.

  • Financial stress: Low-income mothers struggle with financial stress, which is associated with postpartum depression.[6]
  • Breastfeeding: Low-income mothers who experienced financial stress are three times more likely to discontinue it after 4 weeks.[7] One of the reasons why low-income mothers stop breastfeeding their children is because they must return to work. This is problematic because not only does breastfeeding help mothers bond with their infants, but it is critical for an infants’ brain development.[8]  
  • Health insurance: Lack of health care coverage is one of the many reasons why mothers with PPD don’t get treatment. Many new mothers do not have health insurance, as KanCare only covers new mothers for the first 60 days. While one in 10 new Kansas mothers are uninsured, symptoms of PPD can occur within a year after birth.[9] Continued health care coverage is important to ensure new mothers get the health treatment they need.

KanCare Can Help Infants Thrive

Kansas lawmakers have the power to create policies that are beneficial to mothers with postpartum depression. Ten states have enacted legislation to increase depression screening during pregnancy and the postpartum period. To help mothers with PPD, Kansas can a) expand Medicaid, b) allow mothers to stay on Medicaid for over a year after delivery and c) cover screening for postpartum depression.

Expand Medicaid Eligibility

Expansion would increase the number of women who receive health care coverage before, during, and after pregnancy, bolstering the health of mothers and children. Expanding KanCare will decrease the infant mortality rate and improve the health of mothers and infants.

Lengthen Coverage

Every mother needs health coverage for herself and her child’s development. Though millions of low-income mothers have Medicaid coverage during pregnancy,[10] many of them lose their coverage 60 days after birth.[11] Lengthening the amount of time a new mother can stay covered with improve health outcomes for mothers and babies. Lengthening the coverage will improve the mothers’ physical and mental health which is beneficial to children’s brain development.

Cover Screening

Mothers who are mentally healthy can nurture and engage with their children in learning. KanCare allows parents-child therapy; however, access to early screening will help mothers obtain the information they need to improve their health.

More funding and resources are needed to ensure that Kansas mothers have access to the information and health coverage they need and help children thrive.


[1] “Infant and Maternal Health.” Kansas Action for Children, March 2019. https://kac.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/KACbrief-Infant-maternal-health.pdf

[2] Moving Beyond Depression. “An Effective Program to Treat Maternal Depression in Home Visiting: Opportunities for States.” Every Child Succeeds, 2014. https://fhop.ucsf.edu/sites/fhop.ucsf.edu/files/custom_download/MBD%20white%20paper.pdf

[3] Abdi, Fadumo M and Wilkinson, Andra. “Expanding Screening for Postpartum Depression: A Summary of the Reasearch and Data.” Child Trends, 2017. https://www.childtrends.org/expanding-screening-for-postpartum-depression-a-summary-of-the-research-and-data

[4] Earls, Marian F. “Clinical Reports—Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal and Postpartum Depression Into Pediatric Practice.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010.https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2010/10/25/peds.2010-2348.full.pdf

[5] Abdi, Fadumo M and Wilkinson, Andra. “Expanding Screening for Postpartum Depression: A Summary of the Reasearch and Data.” Child Trends, 2017. https://www.childtrends.org/expanding-screening-for-postpartum-depression-a-summary-of-the-research-and-data

[6] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/postpartum-depression-poverty_n_1857293

[7]  Dozier, Ann et all. “The Relationship between Life Stress and Breastfeeding Outcomes among Low-income Mothers.” Advances In Preventive Medicine, 2012.

[8] Lau, Chantal. “Effects of Stress on Lactation.” Pediatric Clinics of North America, vol. 48, no. 1, 2001. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12094640_Effects_of_Stress_on_Lactation

[9] Abdi, Fadumo M and Wilkinson, Andra. “Expanding Screening for Postpartum Depression: A Summary of the Reasearch and Data.” Child Trends, 2017. https://www.childtrends.org/expanding-screening-for-postpartum-depression-a-summary-of-the-research-and-data

[10] “Infant and Maternal Health.” Kansas Action for Children, March 2019. https://kac.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/KACbrief-Infant-maternal-health.pdf

[11] Infant and Maternal Health.” Kansas Action for Children, March 2019. https://kac.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/KACbrief-Infant-maternal-health.pdf

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