Study Shows Inconsistent Care Of Depressed Pregnant Woman

Pregnant women who are depressed need better support.

Researchers followed pregnant women in the care of 20 different providers in 6 different Michigan clinics and found that women with depression given inconsistent, often incomplete or non-existent care. The study, published in General Hospital Psychiatry, found that care-providers were unsure of how best to respond to depression in their patients– even within the same clinic. Some felt uncomfortable talking about depression. “There was no system-level support for providers. They felt as if they were making decisions out on an island,” said lead researchers Dr. Christie Palladino, an ob/gyn at Georgia Health Sciences University.

Palladino’s earlier research showed that depressed pregnant women have significantly longer hospital stays, with an average of more than 24 extra hours *before* birth. I wonder how the depression played a role. Were depressed women more likely to show up in very early labor or were their labors slower than others’?

We must improve protocols for treating depression during pregnancy. The longer mom goes without support and treatment the harder and more overwhelming pregnancy, birth and parenthood can be. Pregnant women and new mothers need quality support– it’s in everyone’s best interest. She is not meant to struggle through this in isolation.

There’s another story about pregnancy and depression in the news today about a possible connection between anti-depressants and birth defects. In it, there’s a quote from the study author: “I would recommend women who are taking SSRIs and are already pregnant or are planning to become pregnant to talk to their doctor on how they should continue treatment.”

But from the sounds of it, these doctors might be just as confused about this issue as the rest of us.

Does your doctor or your midwife talk to you about mental health? Would you be comfortable bringing up depression or emotional hardship at a prenatal visit?

photo: Craig Larsen/flickr

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