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On Perinatal Depression

February 12, 2019

From The New York Times:

As many as one in seven women experience depression during pregnancy, or in the year after giving birth, and there has never been any method scientifically recommended to prevent it.

On Tuesday a government panel of health experts reported that it had found one method that works. Some kinds of counseling can ward off perinatal depression, the panel said, and it urged it for women with certain risk factors.

The guidelines marked the first time a national health organization has recommended anything to fend off the most common complication of pregnancy, and they amounted to a public call for health providers to seek out at-risk women and guide them to treatment. The panel, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, gave its recommendation, published in the journal JAMA, a "B" rating, meaning that under the Affordable Care Act, counseling should be covered without co-payments for women.

"We really need to find these women before they get depressed," said Karina Davidson, a task force member and senior vice president for research for Northwell Health.

"We're so excited to be the first to have this recommendation on preventing a really devastating, prevalent disease that causes such harm to the parent, the child and the family, both psychologically and physiologically," she continued. "All those consequences of this very very prevalent, stigmatizing disease can be averted by effective behavioral counseling."

Perinatal depression, as it is called, is estimated to affect between 180,000 and 800,000 American mothers each year and up to 13 percent of women worldwide. Its consequences can be serious for both mothers and their babies. Perinatal depression increases a woman's risk of becoming suicidal or harming her infant, the panel reported. It also increases the likelihood that babies will be born premature or have low birth weight, and can impair a mother's ability to bond with or care for her child. The panel reported that children of mothers who had perinatal depression have more behavior problems, cognitive difficulties and mental illness.

The panel emphasized that perinatal depression is "should not be confused with the less severe postpartum 'baby blues,' which is a commonly experienced transient mood disturbance consisting of crying, irritability, fatigue, and anxiety that usually resolves within 10 days of delivery."

Read more at The New York Times.