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One in seven new mothers will experience maternal depression at some point during pregnancy or the first year of their child’s life. Maternal depression, a prevalent global public health issue, includes a wide range of mood and anxiety disorders that can affect a mother—these conditions include prenatal/postpartum depression and anxiety, “baby blues”, and postpartum psychosis. Conditions differ from typical clinical depression, e.g. Major Depressive Disorder, and range in severity of symptoms and timing of onset; they can first appear at any point during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. Despite the significant prevalence of maternal depression, only about 20% of physicians, including family physicians, obstetricians/gynecologists and pediatricians, are routinely screening mothers with valid, evidence-based tools as per the recommendations of several agencies, including:
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
All of the above agencies recommend some variation of screening during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period. Maternal depression impairs a mother’s ability to foster healthy attachment in her child’s early years, which has been linked to harmful outcomes in children, including delays in social, emotional, and cognitive development, making it critical to address the issue in a variety of settings.
Early detection and intervention is critical during pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period. Docs for Tots is working with pediatricians and obstetricians/gynecologists in Nassau County, NY to increase the use of standardized maternal depression screening practices and appropriate referral through communication, community outreach, education and training, tools, and technical assistance. In order to increase screening and referral, Docs for Tots:
- Promotes the importance of maternal-child wellbeing by integrating standardized screening procedures into practice work flow
- Works with community partners to ensure screening across a range of early childhood and family settings
- Educates and empowers parents to understand maternal depression, ensure screening, and seek help when needed
- Educates and empowers the community to understand and de-stigmatize behavioral health issues
- Engages community resources to address perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and advocate for screening
- Creates a comprehensive resource referral network for practices to promote treatment options