AOA President Sheds Light on Maternal Mental Health at National Forum

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in postpartum women, according to Massachusetts General Hospital. Untreated mood disorders are serious health conditions that can even impact the life of an unborn child. Studies show that mothers who are depressed or anxious have a much higher risk of premature delivery than mothers who are not.

To help women cope with perinatal and postpartum depression, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently held a forum to discuss methods for implementing new programs with improved mental health screening techniques. Michael Urig, MD, FACOG, president of the Board of Directors of Arizona OBGYN Affiliates (AOA), was among only four representatives from private practices at the forum.

“As physicians at the forefront of women’s healthcare, AOA is taking an important step in making sure that screening for maternal mood disorders is being done as early and efficiently as possible,” explains Dr. Urig. “We want to lead the charge in implementing these new programs, which will encourage other organizations to follow suit at the national level.”

Increased Screenings Improve Outcomes

Most gynecologists today screen women for postpartum depression at their six-week checkup following delivery. However, maternal health experts, including Dr. Urig, suggest that it would be beneficial to screen women for mood disorders before, during and after pregnancy to improve patient outcomes.

Using family history and a simple questionnaire, physicians would have a better chance of identifying women at risk for anxiety and depression related to pregnancy. The sooner these patients are identified, the sooner they can be treated with counseling, nutrition, lifestyle changes and medication.

Case Study Analysis Identifies Challenges

The recent forum was attended by 19 healthcare professionals from across the U.S., which included doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists and nurse midwives. During the session, participants split into small groups to discuss case studies of typical patients affected by maternal mood disorders. Their goal was to consider the opportunities and challenges related to helping the patient work through the health system. Then, they could identify the best way to screen and treat the patient in a timely manner.

According to Dr. Urig, the following are the biggest challenges in getting depression screening programs implemented nationwide:

  • Inconsistent protocols. Getting a consistent protocol in place is crucial to identifying mental health issues in women.
  • Referral followup. While physicians may provide referrals to clinical social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, they may not have a plan in place to ensure that the patient pursued care with the mental health provider. Ongoing postpartum care is essential.
  • Deductibles. Huge insurance deductibles may cause women to put their mental health on the back burner for financial reasons.

Highlights from the forum will be used to develop a toolkit of screening and treatment recommendations for healthcare providers to follow to improve maternal mental health care.

Preserving Families and Society

Advocating for maternal mental health is especially important to Dr. Urig because of the important role of mothers in society. “As healthcare providers, we need to support mothers during and after pregnancy so they can fulfill their roles at home and at work,” he says. “If we fail, they may not be there to take care of their family—which is the core of society. If a key portion of the family unit isn’t functioning, everything can fall apart.”

Read more:

To learn more about maternal mental health screening, call Arizona OBGYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit

The Do’s and Don’ts of Managing Mommy Tummy

Also known as diastasis recti, mommy tummy can make it look like you’re still pregnant long after your baby has been delivered. While this condition affects up to two-thirds of pregnant women, it’s not widely discussed by the medical community.

Diastasis recti is caused by increased tension on the abdominal wall during pregnancy, which creates a separation to form in between the right and left abdominal wall muscles. This muscle gap can result in a rounded belly bulge that’s anything but flattering. So what’s your risk of developing this condition? Mothers who are petite, are over age 35, have multiple pregnancies or have poor muscle tone have a greater chance of getting mommy tummy.

The good news is that mommy tummy may resolve on its own. However, if you don’t want to wait for results, follow these simple steps to help get your pre-baby body back:

The Do's and Dont's of Managing Mommy TummyDo

  • Relax. Take time to relax to lower your body’s levels of cortisol, a significant trigger for abdominal fat accumulation.
  • Walk. Contract your tummy muscles while walking to increase abdominal strength. Be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting any new postpartum exercise routine.
  • Wrap. Use a splint or a wrap to physically support and strengthen your abdominal muscles. This is especially important if you increase your walking pace to a light jog.
  • Sit or stand tall. Practice good posture by tucking your tummy muscles in and encouraging your muscle gap to close.

Other options: Some women have benefited from physical therapy to help fix mommy tummy. While tummy tuck surgery may also be an option, view this as a last resort that should only be considered if you’re not planning on having additional children.


  • Crunch. This classic abdominal exercise may actually cause your tummy muscles to pull apart even further.
  • Strain. While yoga and Pilates are known to have numerous health benefits, many of these exercise positions put added strain on stomach muscles affected by diastasis recti.
  • Lift. Don’t lift or carry excessively heavy objects that will aggravate your muscle gap.
  • Push. While nursing, you may subconsciously push your stomach out to help support your baby. Instead, use a nursing pillow to safeguard your healing tummy muscles.

Read more:

To learn more about managing mommy tummy, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit