Pregnant? New Mom? Get Screened for Depression
One in seven women suffers from depression during pregnancy or after
The last thing a pregnant woman or new mom expects to deal with is depression. After all, having a baby is often considered one of the most joyous experiences of a woman's life. But for many pregnant or postpartum women, depression can drain the joy from bringing home that sweet little bundle.
That's why the new recommendations for depression screening from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPST), a panel of government-appointed health experts, are good news: They emphasize it's especially important to screen women who are pregnant or have just given birth for depression.
According to the guidelines, risk factors for depression during pregnancy and after giving birth include "poor self-esteem, child-care stress, prenatal anxiety, life stress, decreased social support, single/unpartnered relationship status, history of depression, difficult infant temperament, previous postpartum depression, lower socioeconomic status, and unintended pregnancy."
SafeBee asked OB-GYN Donnica Moore, MD, founder and president of drdonnica.com, for her thoughts on the guidelines and what they mean.
Q. How are these
guidelines for depression screening different from previous ones?
In 2009, the USPSTF said all adults should be screened for depression by their primary care doctors. Now the group is emphasizing screening is particularly important for women who are pregnant or have just given birth.
It’s important because it makes depression a top-of-mind issue for everyone, not just doctors and caregivers. We can’t have too many reminders of how depression is a real problem for many people — especially new moms. We used to say postpartum depression affected 10 percent of women. Now it’s believed one in seven suffers from some sort of pregnancy-related depression. Yet in one study, in 1999, only 3 percent of new moms with depression were correctly diagnosed.
Also, we’ve learned that depression can develop during pregnancy, not just after a woman gives birth, so screening should be a part of prenatal care.
How likely is it doctors will be willing to add yet one more screening to those prenatal visits?
It does take time and work. Most OB-GYNS don’t have the systems in place to screen for depression. It’s something a psychiatrist does. However, the USPSTF gave the new guidelines a “B” rating, so if a doctor or caregiver provides depression screening, it must be covered under the Affordable Care Act. That means he or she will be reimbursed. Right now, New Jersey is the only state that requires screening.
Why is spotting depression in this group important?
A healthier mom produces healthier babies. A woman who’s depressed is less likely to take good care of herself during pregnancy. And maternal mental illness can affect kids in many ways. They can have behaviors problems or even struggle with learning when they reach school age. But when pregnancy-related depression is treated, studies show it improves the health of children.
What symptoms should women watch for?
The most common symptom of pregnancy-related depression is weeping for seemingly no reason. Other symptoms include irritability, anger and hostility, headaches, feelings of unreality, exhaustion and restlessness. A woman should get screened if she feels something is off or a family member becomes concerned about her behavior and mood.
It’s also important to consider risk factors for depression. These include a family history, being unmarried at the time of giving birth, having no social support, experiencing a negative event during pregnancy or childbirth and having a history of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
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