NYMC Faculty Publications

Preventing Perinatal Depression Now: A Call to Action

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Journal of Women's Health

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Obstetrics and Gynecology


In the United States, perinatal depression (PD) affects an estimated 11.5% of pregnant and postpartum individuals annually and is one of the most common complications of pregnancy and the postpartum period. Alarmingly, up to 51% of people with PD are undiagnosed. Despite the availability of tools to screen for PD, there is no consensus on which tool is most accurate, nor is there a universal policy on when and how to best screen patients with PD. Screening to identify PD is essential, but prevention of depression is even more critical, yet traditionally not well addressed until recently with the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation in 2019. When the USPSTF recommended implementing programs to prevent PD in at-risk individuals, the recommendation cited two evidence-based PD prevention programs by name. One of these, ROSE (Reach Out, Stay Strong, Essentials for mothers of newborns), is a four-session class taught in prenatal settings. The second program mentioned is the Mothers and Babies program, which has been shown to be effective in using a cognitive behavioral therapy approach to prevent PD. Although scientists develop effective mental health interventions to prevent PD, community-based advocacy groups are engaged in grassroots efforts to provide support and encouragement to racially and ethnically diverse pregnant and postpartum women. To increase the number of pregnant and postpartum women who are screened and supported so that they do not develop PD, research supports three key strategies: (1) Establish a standard combination of multicultural PD screening tools with evidence-based timepoints for screening administration. (2) Introduce an evidence-based definition of PD that accurately captures the prevalence and incidence of this mental health condition. (3) Improve our understanding of PD by incorporating the psychosocial context in which mental health complications occur into routine clinical practice for pregnant and postpartum women.

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