Term of Award

Fall 2023

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Digital Commons@Georgia Southern License


Department of Health Policy and Community Health

Committee Chair

Tilicia Mayo-Gamble

Committee Member 1

Bettye Apenteng

Committee Member 2

Joanne Chopak-Foss


In the United States, maternal mental health disorders are the most common comorbidities experienced during pregnancy and after childbirth. In particular, the state of Georgia reports that 1 in 7 Georgian mothers experience depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or psychosis related to these disorders. Research suggests that untreated maternal mental health can have adverse effects on the mother and unborn child. Conditions such as autism, mixed handedness, reduced cognitive ability, and affective disorders can develop while the child is in the womb of a depressed mother. Routine maternal mental health screening using a validated screening tool has been recommended to help mitigate this risk. However, adherence to this recommendation is unknown. The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore medical providers' use of maternal mental health screening tools during prenatal appointments and identify barriers and facilitators to routine screening implementation. Online open-ended surveys were completed by 20 medical providers, and 8 agreed to optional follow-up telephone interviews. They were recruited through a homogeneous purposive, snowball, and convenience sampling method. Qualitative content analysis was used to summarize and interpret the data. The following main categories emerged from the data: current screening practices, reason for screening tool selection, outcomes of screening, inefficiencies in screening process, challenges in treatment evaluation, and perceived value for mental health screening recommendations. Categories for barriers to screening included limited knowledge and understanding of mental health and limited resources to support mental health screening. While facilitators to screening included, support structures and development of knowledge, skills, and techniques, and emerged from the data. Findings from this study can inform screening tool implementation techniques which reduce barriers and promotes facilitators experienced by medical providers during prenatal appointments. Additionally, findings can inform the development of standardized screening guidelines to support screening tool utilization by providers.

INDEX WORDS: Maternal mental health, Mental health screening tool, Medical providers, Prenatal, Perinatal, Southeast Georgia, Normalization Process Theory

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material