Introducing mental health Pulse Checks: clinically-backed techniques to improve perinatal mental health

When screened, 40% of Cleo members had a mental health risk. With the help of new mental health Pulse Checks, over half that were connected with mental health support saw improvement within six weeks.

Welcoming a new child can be both a joyous and an incredibly stressful experience. Up to 25% of new mothers and 10% of fathers experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy or the postpartum period. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the prevalence of anxiety disorders during pregnancy, with researchers recording rates of anxiety in pregnancy to be as high as 57% amid the pandemic.

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can have major adverse effects on parents, children, and families’ mental, physical, and emotional health. Unfortunately, many families don’t get the support they need—either to diagnose symptoms or get treatment. 50% of mothers with anxiety or depression symptoms don’t seek mental health support. The cost of not treating mothers with mental health disorders is high—experts estimate the societal cost for untreated PMADs is about $6,400 per year for each mother and child pair based on healthcare spending, productivity loss, absenteeism from work, and even departures from the workforce.

Up to 25% of new mothers and 10% of fathers experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy or the postpartum period.

At Cleo our mission is to help working families thrive—in health, parenting, and their careers. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 19% of adults experienced a mental health illness such as anxiety or depression. It will come as a surprise to few that the pandemic has increased this significantly.

Cleo is deeply committed to supporting the mental and emotional wellness of the many families we support. In 2020 we launched a mental health Pulse Check pilot program to better identify and support members at risk of mental health challenges. Based on the success of that program we have expanded it to all Cleo members who are pregnant or postpartum.

Introducing Cleo’s mental health Pulse Check

Cleo’s mental health Pulse Check identifies risks and addresses mental health disorders among enrolled Cleo families. Cleo Baby families (those who are expecting or new parents) are notified to complete a short mental health screening questionnaire in the Cleo app at several points during pregnancy and in the postpartum period—particularly high risk times for expecting and new parents.

Cleo Guides, health and wellness experts that provide personalized 1-on-1 support for all Cleo members, are alerted by any scores that indicate a potential risk and reach out to members to schedule an emotional wellness check-in call. For members with an identified mental health need, Guides either connect them to a mental health specialist from Cleo’s network of experts or help find a mental health specialist covered by their insurance. For any member whose employer also offers a mental health benefit, Cleo connects members with their existing mental health offering.

Screenshot of mental health pulse check and guide message in Cleo app

Standard setting engagement and impact

Cleo is raising the bar for screening and addressing mental health concerns among pregnant and postpartum people. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant people get screened at least once for PMADs during pregnancy.

While the number of pregnant people that get screened has increased, many OB-Gyns do not have the time or established referral networks necessary to make sure patients get the follow-up care they need. This is where Cleo stands out—our model is based on long-term, trusted relationships between members and Cleo Guides. Guides are there for all the moments, big and small, along families’ journeys. The trusted relationships that Cleo Guides build with each member leads to higher levels of trust, engagement, and ability to follow up with and support members at risk of mental health challenges.

I want to acknowledge all the support you gave me during that really rough stretch, from checking in on me proactively every so often to connecting me with mental health specialists. I don’t think I would have gotten through that without you. Thank you so, so much.

Anonymous Cleo father

Cleo’s mental health Pulse Checks are helping us identify members who are in need of support sooner.

  • More than ⅓ of pregnant or postpartum Cleo members completed the screening questionnaire
  • About 40% had an identified mental health risk
  • 100% of members at risk received follow up from their Cleo Guide and offered an emotional wellness call
  • 60% of those at risk participated in an emotional wellness call and were navigated to additional resources and mental health specialists for ongoing care
  • More than half of the Cleo members that were connected to additional mental health support reported an improvement in their status within six weeks