Counseling Can Prevent Pregnancy-Related Depression: Task Force

Women at risk for depression during and after pregnancy should receive certain types of counseling in order to prevent it, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says.

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In a recommendation published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the task force said its review of available evidence showed that women who received one of two forms of counseling were 39 percent less likely than those who didn’t to develop perinatal depression, The New York Times reported.

One type is cognitive behavioral therapy that helps women manage their feelings and expectations to create healthy, supportive settings for their children. The other type is interpersonal therapy that includes coping skills and role-playing exercises to help deal with stress and relationship conflicts.

The government panel of health experts gave this recommendation a “B” rating, meaning that under the Affordable Care Act, this counseling should be covered without co-payments, The Times reported.

Perinatal depression is the most common complication of pregnancy, estimated to affect between 180,000 and 800,000 American mothers each year and up to 13 percent of women worldwide.

This is the first time that any method has been scientifically recommended to prevent perinatal depression, which occurs in as many as one in seven women during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth.

“We really need to find these women before they get depressed,” said task force member Karina Davidson, senior vice president for research for Northwell Health, The Times reported.

“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,” Davidson said. “All those consequences of this very very prevalent, stigmatizing disease can be averted by effective behavioral counseling.”

Perinatal depression increases a woman’s risk of becoming suicidal or harming her infant, increases the risk of premature birth or low birth weight, and can impair a mother’s ability to bond with or care for her baby, according to the task force.

It also said that children of mothers who had perinatal depression have more behavior problems, cognitive difficulties and mental illness, The Times reported.

The task force said at-risk women who should receive counseling include those with: a personal or family history of depression; recent stresses like divorce or economic strain; traumatic experiences like domestic violence; and depressive symptoms that don’t constitute full-blown depression.

Other risk factors include being a single mother, a teenager, low-income, not having graduated high school, and having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, The Times reported.

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