New Depression Screening Recommendations for All Pregnant Women, New Mothers

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

CAMDEN- Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new mental health recommendations with a special focus on pregnant women and new moms struggling with perinatal mood disorders including postpartum depression (PPD).   

Perinatal Mood Disorders affect 10-15% of new mothers, and include a variety of symptoms including feelings of loneliness, irritability, anxiety, sadness, and guilt. Perinatal mood disorder may interfere with mothers’ ability to bond with their babies as well as create tension and stress in their relationships with family members or partners. Pregnant women and new moms were highlighted because of evidence showing that they can be accurately diagnosed and successfully treated, and because untreated depression harms not only the mother, but her child as well.

One of the biggest challenges around PPD is treatment.

In New Jersey, the Speak Up When You’re Down initiative seeks to identify mothers experiencing perinatal mood disorder and connect them to the treatment they need to overcome the disorder. To accomplish this goal, New Jersey has mandated all new mothers must be screened for PPD before being discharged from the hospital after giving birth and at their six-week checkup at their OB-GYN offices. If screening identifies symptoms of perinatal mood disorders, mothers are referred to the statewide toll-free Family Help Line, the designated resource for PPD callers since 2005.

The Speak Up When You’re Down initiative is a joint effort between Center For Family Services, NJ Department of Health, Universality Behavior Health Services (UBHC), and the regional maternal child health consortiums. Since the project was launched, Family Help Line has answered 13,206 PPD calls.  

The Family Health Line has designated Speak Up When You’re Down and answers calls statewide on a 24-hour basis. The Speak U When You’re Down initiative has designated staff members that work exclusively with PPD callers. The Family Health Line assists new mom’s struggling with depression by providing telephone support for them and their spouses follow up services from PPD counselors, and assistance with insurance companies to identify treatment options. Mothers will also be referred to PPD support groups and resources in their community.

Many women seek outpatient counseling to treat their depression, receiving priority treatment from organizations like Family Health Line’s provider, Center For Family Services. If a mother does not have insurance or Medicaid, the state of New Jersey pays for her to receive 12 weeks of outpatient counseling.

 To seek treatment for a perinatal mood disorder including postpartum depression, call the Family Health Line at 1.800.328.3838

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