by Cindy Gamble
Giving birth and caring for a brand new, totally dependent human being while figuring out baby cues and researching parenting strategies is hard work. Many new moms need support in their new roles of “the most important person in the world” and “the milk train”. Although making babies can be quite easy, parenting is not, and as many of us have discovered—babies do not come with instructions!
The first 12 months of a baby’s life, the 12 month postpartum period for mom, can be a joyful and incredible time, but it can also have difficult and challenging moments. Trying to calm a not-to-be-comforted infant at 4 am is certainly stressful, but it is also frustrating for the new mom not to be able to access the services and support that could make a difference to her health and wellness.
Prior to April 2021, women who had pregnancy-related coverage through Medicaid only had coverage for 60 days after the birth of their baby. This was very short-sighted as issues can arise for new moms after 60 days. Without access to essential services and support, issues that could be resolved in the early stages have the potential to escalate. This can create more stress for the mother, which in turn creates more stress for the baby and family.
Many public and private partners, including medical, behavioral health and public health professionals, maternal and infant health advocates, community members and other stakeholders have worked for several years to gather the support and momentum to pass a law which gives new moms 12 months of Medicaid coverage for their own health care concerns.
After several years of advocacy, the Medicaid Postpartum Extension Bill was signed by Governor Inslee on April 16, 2021. This is a major accomplishment in the effort to improve the health of mothers, babies and families. When mothers are supported, their physical, mental and emotional health needs and concerns can be addressed with understanding, respect and compassion, leading to less stress in their life. With less stress, there is greater opportunity to bond with their infant, and develop a loving, understanding and nurturing relationship, leading to better health outcomes for mothers and babies. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard and supported the passage of this bill.