Recognizing maternal mental health disorders: beyond postpartum depression

Amanda Yeaton-Massey, Tiffany Herrero
Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology 2019 January 28

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Maternal mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, are one of the most common obstetric complications, presenting in pregnancy and postpartum.

RECENT FINDINGS: Maternal mental health disorders are associated with adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. Screening women in pregnancy and postpartum for mental health disorders is key to early identification and treatment of anxiety and depression in the perinatal population. Although universal screening is now recommended by numerous professional organizations, rates of screening are low and often not performed with a validated screening instrument. Although clinical assessment is important, it is insufficient to identify maternal mental health disorders. As symptoms may change throughout pregnancy, screening for anxiety and depression should be done at multiple time points in pregnancy, including intake and postpartum. In addition, it is important to complete a mental health history on intake to identify women who are either at risk for, or experiencing, anxiety and depression. All screening programmes must be accompanied by a protocol to respond to a positive screen to ensure appropriate follow-up and treatment.

SUMMARY: Identification and treatment of maternal mental health disorders has important implications for maternal and child health. Obstetric providers should screen all women using a validated screening instrument and have systems in place to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.

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