Depression Screenings During and After Pregnancy

By: Alexandra McLeod

Recently, an influential government appointed panel solicited by Human and Health Services (HHS) gave screening for postpartum depression during and after pregnancy a “B” rating in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  This new rating, if accepted, means that the Affordable Care Act would have to cover the screening of mothers during and after pregnancy for depression. As research has developed about this issue it has been found that postpartum depression can occur during pregnancy and if left untreated the mood disorder can negatively impact the child. Some individuals are curious as to why depression may occur in expectant mothers and the answer to that question is still unclear. The postpartum depression may stem from a mother not being able to bond with her child during or after birth or it is sometimes found to be genetic. In more recent years, research demonstrated more mothers suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth to their children. It is said that one of every seven mothers experiences the feeling of depression and only more recently have these mothers felt comfortable to talk to their doctors about these concerns.

Several healthcare providers (ex: obstetricians) have said that women have fears of hurting their children or themselves or concerns about the child’s welfare that is out of the mother’s control. This leads to mothers sometimes not being proactive with their prenatal health and if continued to go untreated a mother’s mental illness could affect the child’s well being. Previously, doctors were concerned with the risks of treating depression during pregnancy through a low dose or medication or screening because of the impact the protocols may have on the baby. However, as a result of growth within the medical field there is greater access to mental health facilities, safer ways to screen mothers for depression, and lower dosage anti-depressant medication that mothers can take that do not negatively impact the baby. It is important that women take advantage of these services to allow every mother the opportunity to play an active and positive role in her child’s life. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced a goal to include universal screenings in women’s routine care.

While there is a large push to enact legislation for depression screenings during and after pregnancy the panel did not request a certain number of screenings for the expectant mothers during pregnancy and after birth to ensure that all mothers are receiving the proper care. The number of screenings can be determined upon future research and doctors’ opinions on the subject matter to protect their patients. This type of legislation is important because of the increasing number of expectant mothers that seem to be experiencing racing or suicidal thoughts. There is not better way to protect these women than being proactive and making sure the care that expectant mothers need is provided for these women through the new Affordable Care Act. A strong and loving motherly influence is important in a child’s life and the new depression screening guidelines will help make this possible.

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