Feb. 12 (UPI) -- That's why new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are calling on doctors to look for signs of perinatal depression during pregnancy and in mothers who just gave birth.
"Few primary care clinicians have used any screening tool as part of their usual clinical care or feel equipped to screen and assess for depression, let alone screen for patients who may benefit from prevention strategies," researchers wrote in an editorial published alongside the study. "Within primary care, there can be a lack of knowledge regarding where to refer women for appropriate counseling services, and there is often not a clear path to these resources. Prevention of disease and optimal quality of life for patients is the ultimate goal of all health care and should be a north star guiding research and practice on perinatal depression."
Depression in new mothers brings on feelings of strong sadness, anxiety, worthlessness, lack of energy and inability to bond with their newborn, according to the study.
Physicians are already tasked with screening new mothers for depression. There are, however, two forms of counseling for women who feel these postpartum mood swings.
One of those treatments is cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches people to manage negative thoughts. The other is interpersonal therapy, which helps to improve relationship problems that contribute to depression. The counseling can be done one-on-one or in group settings.
"Beyond the many barriers to implementation, it is important to note that successful referral of all presenting with the increased risk of perinatal depression would put enormous pressure on existing mental health resources that already have a shortage of health care professionals," the editorial said.
Risk factors include new mothers from low-income households, teen mothers, those who've been physically or sexually abused or had previous bouts of depression, or who have a family history of the illness.