When people think of depression and pregnancy, the thing that most immediately comes to mind is postpartum depression. However, depression isn't isolated to just after the baby is born. In fact, one in seven women experience depression either during or after pregnancy, according to the New York Times, which makes this a massive problem impacting both moms and babies. But health experts are saying there's a way to prevent it — and this is major breakthrough for women.
A national panel of health experts recently shared how to prevent women from dealing with the difficult symptoms of depression. According to the United States Preventive Services Task Force, specific counseling can help keep women from developing "debilitating" symptoms of depression that put both moms and babies at risk.
The task force is now recommending doctors or other health providers identify women with certain risk factors and help them get into counseling as soon as possible.
This official recommendation is huge because it requires insurance companies to pay for the services. The task force's official recommendation means that under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies must cover the cost, without even a copayment, according to the New York Times.
“We really need to find these women before they get depressed,” said task force member Karina Davidson.
Maternal mental health is something that everyone needs to take seriously and work possibly prevent. According to the World Health Organization, 10 percent of pregnant women and 13 percent of new moms experience a mental disorder, typically depression, worldwide. In the United States alone, perinatal depression affects between 180,000 and 800,000 moms, the New York Times reports.
"In severe cases mothers’ suffering might be so severe that they may even commit suicide. In addition, the affected mothers cannot function properly," WHO's website states. "As a result, the children’s growth and development may be negatively affected as well."
Depression during pregnancy has also been found to increase the chances of a premature birth, being born with a low birth weight, and mothers struggling to bond or even care for a newborn. And according to the panel, the little ones born to moms who suffered from perinatal depression are also affected — they reportedly have more problems with behavior, cognition and mental health. Although the disorders are typically treatable, imagine a world where women and their kids don't have to deal with this in the first place.
It looks like the answer could be counseling for many, many women. During the the panel's research, it looked at a variety of typical prevention methods. From yoga and physical activity to education, infant sleep advice, and antidepressants, studies on each strategy showed that counseling had the strongest results.
In fact, women who received one to two forms of counseling were 39 percent less likely to develop depression during or after pregnancy than those who didn’t, the New York Times reports. “This recommendation is really important,” said Jennifer Felder, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “This focuses on identifying women who are at risk for depression and proactively preventing its onset, using concrete guidelines.”
The panel advises that women with any risk factors should be enrolled in counseling. The risk factors are broad and include any personal or family history of depression, recent life stresses (including the pregnancy being unplanned), symptoms of depression — or more difficult factors, such as being single, young, uneducated or low-income.
Some of the counseling that led to positive results includes cognitive behavioral and interpersonal therapy. "It’s really meant to break down this idea that talking about your thoughts and behaviors is scary,” associate professor Darius Tandon said about one program, Mothers and Babies.
“It provides the pregnant person with education and coping strategies,” added Dr. Melissa Simon, a task force member.
This post was originally published on Mom.me sister site, CafeMom.