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Screening for Depression During and After Pregnancy: a New Recommendation for Moms

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By Cassie Kreitner, Senior Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
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Image: Bruce & Rebecca Meissner

It’s natural for women feel a range of emotions during pregnancy and after baby’s arrival. But a new study finds that how you feel before giving birth can help clinicians identify your risk for three distinct subtypes of postpartum depression. Pinpointing these characteristics early on can help determine how you should be treated.

"A thorough assessment of a women’s history is necessary to guide appropriate clinical and treatment decisions, said Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders and corresponding collaborator of the study.

Using data collected from 10,000 women for previous studies, the analysis found that several factors can determine a woman’s risk for more severe postpartum depression: the timing of when symptoms begin (pre- or post-birth), the severity of symptoms, a history of mood disorders and whether or not a woman faces medical complications during pregnancy.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, was conducted as part of a new international research consortium called PACT (Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment). The group includes more than 25 researchers in seven countries who focus on mood disorders and the underlying biological and genetic contributions of these disorders.

By getting a better understanding of the types of postpartum depression that affect soon-to-be and new moms, clinicians can tailor the implementation and interpretation of screening, diagnosis, treatment and research of perinatal mood disorders to their specific needs.

"We are now working to apply our findings from this work to future biological and genetic studies of depression in women across the perinatal period,” Meltzer-Brody said.

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