New Recommendation Calls for Doctors to Screen Pregnant Women for Depression

A new move encourages doctors to screen pregnant women and new moms for depression to get them the help they need.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Aug 2018
serious pregnant woman standing in tropical greenhouse
Photo: Julia Fenner

Maternal depression is a struggle for mom and baby. Many times, knowing you may be at risk for depression can be half the battle.

A new recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is working to change this. The drafted suggestion calls for doctors to screen pregnant women and new moms to identify those at risk for becoming depressed. That way, moms can be treated before they show symptoms of depression and are diagnosed with the condition.

“If we could get in earlier, and provide some treatments such as psychotherapies…then we could prevent new onset of illness,” Maria Muzik, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, tells NPR.

Preventive screening would be a game-changer, as there are many pregnant women and new moms who suffer from depression during pregnancy or in the year after childbirth. The new recommendation suggests two kinds of talk therapy—cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy—to help prevent depression for those at risk.

“The really big news is that counseling to prevent depression in women who’re at risk works,” Karina Davidson, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Center tells NPR. “Counseling doesn’t cause increased anxiety, and it doesn’t hurt in any way.”

This report once again highlights how important it is to identify those moms or moms-to-be who may be at risk for maternal depression, and to get them the help they need so they don’t have to face the battle alone.

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