New reproductive mental health center offers resources for women in Austin

Claire Bills

UT Health Austin is now offering mental health care for current and soon-to-be mothers through the new Women’s Reproductive Mental Health center.

The center, located in The Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences near campus, began offering treatment last month for women suffering from mental illness either before, during or after pregnancy. The treatment includes psychotherapy, medication, brain stimulation therapies, various forms of self-help and support groups.

Psychiatrist Jeffrey Newport recently joined the clinic and helped open the center. Newport said reproductive mental health care is often overlooked.

“Very often, people have not understood just what risk certain mental disorders, left untreated, can pose not only to the mother, but to her child,” Newport said.

Newport said he has helped open similar programs in other cities, and centers that offer mental health services specific to women in and around pregnancy are rare.

 



“It’s something that is lacking most everywhere,” Newport said. “So that’s not unique to UT.”

Psychology senior Taylor Ribar, who became a new mother in May, said she was frustrated with how few resources the University offered during her pregnancy.

“I wish I would’ve heard about (the center) sooner, but I’m so glad it’s starting now,” Ribar said. 

After developing a condition during pregnancy that caused walking to be painful, Ribar said she reached out to Student Emergency Services and the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, but she wasn’t satisfied with her care. 

“I wanted something more substantial, like tactics for communicating and handling a hard situation,” Ribar said.

She said she primarily relied on support and care from outside of the University.

“It’s definitely hard as a student if things aren’t readily available,” Ribar said. “You don’t really have time to prioritize if it’s not there.” 

Marketing senior Cassie Guardiola recently became president of Horns for Life, an anti-abortion advocacy group that offers support for parents at UT. Guardiola said she is glad to hear about the new center. 

“I think it’s a really great resource because a lot of college students who find themselves facing a pregnancy that is unplanned don’t know where to go or who supports them,” Guardiola said. 

Newport said he hopes to expand the center to include more resources for the Austin community. 

“Ultimately, our hope is to set up an intensive outpatient program, which is a day program for women who are suffering from postpartum illness, where they can bring their babies with them to the program,” Newport said.