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What You and Your Family Need to Know About Maternal Depression

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The two programs work with both first-time mothers and women who already have children. They are available in Spanish and focus on low-income women. Both are expanding and testing different ways of delivering their curriculum, which is provided free to clinics and community health agencies.

The panel’s recommendation will require insurance to cover counseling at no cost to women receiving it. Health providers delivering it might have to pay for costs like babysitting and transportation for pregnant women who attend.

The task force evaluated the strongest research available on possible prevention methods, including physical activity, education, infant sleep advice, yoga, expressive writing, omega-3 fatty acids and antidepressants. In the 50 studies it analyzed, there were hints of promise with a few approaches, including physical activity and three programs in Europe (Britain and the Netherlands) that involved home visits by midwives or other health providers. But the evidence of benefit wasn’t strong enough with anything except counseling.

The panel also looked for any harm that prevention methods could cause. They found negative effects in the two small studies with antidepressants. One study reported instances of dizziness and drowsiness among women who took Zoloft. The other reported that more women taking Pamelor experienced constipation.

That doesn’t mean antidepressants aren’t good at treating actual depression, said a panel member, Karina Davidson, who is senior vice president for research for Northwell Health. After all, that’s what they’re designed for. But the studies so far don’t suggest that these drugs are the best method to prevent pregnancy-related depression before it develops.

If you have symptoms, seek help from a mental health provider, a community health center, a primary care doctor, or ask for a referral from your obstetrician or your baby’s pediatrician. Treatment might involve therapy, medication or both. For more advice and programs and support networks in your area, organizations like Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Progress are good resources.

The first step is knowing that you’re not alone, many women experience perinatal depression, it can be treated, and there are many organizations willing and eager to help.


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