Embedded Maternal Mental Health Care in a Pediatric Primary Care Clinic: A Qualitative Exploration of Mothers’ Experiences

Chelsea Anne Young, Honora Burnett, Alexandra Ballinger, Gloria Castro, Shay Steinberg, Melissa Nau, E. Hayes Bakken, Melanie Thomas, Amy L. Beck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening parents for postpartum depression during pediatric primary care visits. Unfortunately, many women who screen positive do not obtain treatment. Providing mental health services for women in the same location as their children's primary care may facilitate treatment, but few such clinics exist. We designed a qualitative study to evaluate women's perceptions and experiences with receiving mental health services from psychiatrists embedded in a safety-net pediatric primary care clinic. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with women receiving mental health care from embedded psychiatrists in a safety-net pediatric clinic. Data were analyzed using an inductive approach. Results: Twenty women participated. Five major themes emerged: 1) barriers to maternal mental health care, including psychiatric symptoms impairing access, stigma, and fear of Child Protective Services; 2) benefits of embedded care, including convenience, low barrier to entry and trust; 3) motherhood as facilitator to care, with early motherhood described as a time of vulnerability to relapse; 4) focus on parenting, including appreciation for parenting skills and normalization of the mothering experience; 5) treatment modality preferences, including concerns about medications and a preference for psychotherapy. Conclusions: Postpartum women face many barriers to psychiatric care. Mental health care embedded within the pediatric setting lowers barriers to care during this critical period. These insights should inform further collaboration between adult psychiatrists and pediatric care providers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)934-941
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral health
  • health services
  • maternal child health
  • postpartum depression
  • primary care pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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