MCH News: Depression screening recommended pre- and postnatally by national task force

IMG_3476A recommendation to screen pregnant women during pregnancy and in the postpartum period was released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in the January 26 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), an important step towards increasing detection of depression and linking women with care.

The Task Force, an independent and voluntary group supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services for patients. Their latest recommendation deemed the prenatal and postpartum period important because depression is common in postpartum and pregnant women and can affect the child as well. The recommendation received a “B” rating, which means the screening must be covered under the Affordable Care Act.

Read the full recommendation here.

Women at risk for depression include those with a history of depression, mental health disorder or family history; lack of support; anxiety or negative feelings about pregnancy; problems with a previous pregnancy or birth; stressful life events; young age; and substance misuse.

Locally, mental health in women before, during and after pregnancy is a priority for the Healthy Start Coalition and its partners serving women and infants in the region.

The Magnolia Project, a federal Healthy Start program focused on the preconception and prenatal well-being of women in Jacksonville’s urban core, has long recognized that women who experiences high levels of psychosocial stress are at risk for poor pregnancy outcomes like premature birth. The Project links women to specific stress reduction classes or mental health group activities, like Yoga in the Street.  A Freedom Coach also provides individual counseling to address toxic stress and other behavioral health issues.

The universal Healthy Start prenatal risk screen, which is required to be offered to all pregnant women in the state by healthcare providers, includes questions about mental health. The screen is the main tool used to refer women to Healthy Start prenatal services.

Women enrolled in Healthy Start now received depression screening. All Healthy Start providers are contractually required to provide an Edinburgh postpartum depression screen to their clients, to help care coordinators better identify women in need of mental health services. An assessment will be done prenatally, one time during the postpartum period and also while following an infant if the provider deems it necessary.