Roughly 1 in 7 moms, who, during or after pregnancy, suffer debilitating depression — losses of energy or concentration, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, feelings of worthlessness or suicidal thoughts — now may get counseling that has proven helpful to women and their babies.
Preventive health experts have called on medical providers to guide women to this specialized care that could benefit 180,000 to 800,000 mothers each year. Because this treatment has been put forward this way, women also can get help affording it. As the New York Times reported, the recommendation for maternal depression counseling, by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, means insurers must cover the services — with no co-payments — under the Affordable Care Act.
Experts told the newspaper the USPSTF action was an important step on perinatal depression, noting:
The condition increases a woman’s risk of becoming suicidal or harming her infant … 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 shouldn’t be confused with ‘baby blues’ — the tears, irritability, fatigue, and anxiety that many women experience after delivery, but which evaporates within 10 days.
Moms should get the extra attention based on certain factors, the newspaper reported:
The panel recommended counseling for women with one or more of a broad range of risk factors, including a personal or family history of depression; recent stresses like divorce or economic strain; traumatic experiences like domestic violence; or depressive symptoms that don’t constitute a full-blown diagnosis. Others include being a single mother, a teenager, low-income, lacking a high school diploma, or having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, panel members said.
The USPSTF scrutinized ways that women with perinatal depression have been treated with best outcomes, focusing on counseling with: cognitive behavioral therapy, “helping women navigate their feelings and expectations to create healthy, supportive environments for their children,” as the New York Times reported; and with “interpersonal therapy, including coping skills and role-playing exercises to help manage stress and relationship conflicts.”
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the heart breaking result for loved ones of injuries to babies and children. Patients struggle to access and afford safe, effective, and excellent medical care, including mental health services. It’s unacceptable that we stigmatize mental disorders and their much-needed care, especially when an estimated 16.2 million American adults, 6.7 percent of grownups in this nation, experienced at least one major depressive episode.
This is defined as a period of two weeks or longer in which the individual is either depressed in mood or experiences loss of interest or pleasure and displays at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, self-image or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Our nation is in the midst of an epidemic of suicide, with 45,000 Americans taking their own lives in 2016. Confidential help is available by calling the toll-free national prevention line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The New York Times also has put up two related stories on depression, one indicating that some research finds that exercise can be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing the condition, and another that describes how ketamine, a once popular party drug, may offer a new pharmaceutical treatment for severe depression.
All this coverage is good and worth encouraging: We have a long way to go in helping loved ones, friends, and colleagues deal with depression and avoid suicide.