Heavy financial toll of untreated maternal mental health conditions in Colorado explored

Written by: Erin Miller
Date Posted: May 17, 2019

Depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth—affecting one in 11 people who experience pregnancy in Colorado. And only half of women get the treatment that they need. Untreated pregnancy-related depression and anxiety has significant economic and social costs that span generations. A new study estimates the national economic costs of these disorders. When following mother–child pairs in the U.S. from pregnancy through five years postpartum, the estimated total societal cost was $14.2 billion for births in 2017, or an average of $32,000 for every mother–child pair affected by maternal mental health conditions but not treated. In addition to national results, state-specific details for Colorado show that our inability to prevent and treat these disorders costs the state $200 million per year in both lost productivity and increased health care costs from events like preterm births.

This week I was invited to share these findings on 9News, as well as policy changes we can make to prevent pregnancy-related depression and anxiety and to help ensure that more women are screened appropriately to get the care that they deserve.


Erin Miller being interviewed on 9 news

In addition to the economic costs, there are real societal costs for our failure to address these conditions. Pregnancy-related depression can make it hard for moms to be the kind of parents they want to be to their kids and to help their new babies make the connections that will best encourage critical early brain development. Even more tragically, we know that suicide is a driving cause of maternal death in Colorado.

Key takeaways on a study on postpartum depression

If you are struggling with these issues right now, go to www.postpartum.net/colorado where Postpartum Support International lists a number of Colorado-specific resources that can get you started toward finding treatment. With treatment, the negative impacts of pregnancy-related depression and anxiety can be nearly eliminated.

There are also policy and system changes we can make to both prevent pregnancy-related depression and to get more women treated who need it. One good way to help prevent pregnancy-related depression for example, is through universal paid family leave. We can help women get treatment by screening women for depression regularly by their health care providers, including their child’s pediatrician at well-child visits in the first year after birth.

We call on our policy-makers to create a Colorado that better protects the health and well-being of all Colorado moms.

Erin Miller

About Erin Miller

Erin serves as the Vice President of Health Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, leading efforts to improve health insurance coverage and quality for Colorado’s kids, improve access to health services, and ensure that every child has healthy places to live, learn, and play. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign in September 2015, Erin worked on the Accountable Care Collaborative team at the Colorado Department of Health Policy and Financing. She has extensive experience evaluating federal, state, and local policies related to Medicaid, CHIP, the Affordable Care Act, and public health programs as well as working with legislators, policymakers, constituents, and other stakeholders to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Her professional experiences range from serving as a WIC Educator and Local Area Retail Coordinator for Denver Health to serving as a Special Assistant in the HHS Office of Planning and Evaluation in Washington DC and as a Health Policy Adviser and Budget Analyst for the U.S. House Budget Committee.