Magazine article USA TODAY

Depressed Women Should Seek Treatment

Magazine article USA TODAY

Depressed Women Should Seek Treatment

Article excerpt

One in five pregnant women may be experiencing symptoms of depression, but few are getting help for them, a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, study finds. Moreover, those with a history of depression any time before their pregnancy--about one in four--are almost twice as likely to show signs of depression while expecting.

The study reveals troubling under-diagnosis and -treatment of depression in pregnancy. Twenty percent of the women scored high on a standard survey of depression symptoms, but of those, just 13.8% were receiving any mental health counseling, drugs, or other treatment. Only about 24% of those who experienced depression in the last six months were receiving treatment during pregnancy.

Growing scientific evidence suggests that hormone imbalances associated with depression can affect the fetus or put a woman at higher risk of postpartum depression. Population-based evidence also has shown that babies of depressed mothers do worse at birth, and beyond, than other infants. Medications and psychotherapy can regulate the stress hormones and other brain chemistry involved in depression, helping alleviate women's symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce chances of debilitating postpartum depression, self-harming acts, and suicide.

This moderating effect also may spare the fetus lasting repercussions. Studies have shown that babies born to depressed mothers have lower birth weights, higher risk of premature birth and birth complications, delayed cognitive and language development, and more behavioral problems. …

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