Mental health screening during pregnancy

When you’re getting closer and closer to welcoming home a little one, you want to focus on the fun things. Have you decided on a name yet? Is the crib set up, and the nursery decorated? Can’t you just picture those newborn snuggles?

Many women, however, struggle with different thoughts and feelings during pregnancy. Though a bit of sadness or worry from time-to-time is completely healthy and normal, feeling like that constantly is not, and may be a sign of clinical depression.

Depression can occur during pregnancy too

Postpartum depression, which affects as many as 1 in 7 new moms, is probably more well-known, but depression during pregnancy (known as peripartum depression) is quite common as well. 

Yes, hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, and there’s a lot of added stress during these months, but it’s a mistake to dismiss intense and prolonged feelings of sadness as ‘just a normal part of pregnancy.’ Clinical depression can have real effects on both mom and baby, so if you’re feeling depressed, it’s always a good idea to contact your health care provider.

Use this clinically validated tool

When health care providers screen pregnant and postpartum women for depression, they often use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Although it’s called the “Postnatal Scale,” the screener is considered appropriate for use during pregnancy as well.

The EPDS consists of 10 questions, each of which has four options. Each option is worth between 0 and 3 points. After completing the screener, you’ll add up your score from each question to find your result. If you score 10 or over, it means there’s at least a moderate risk of clinical depression, and should consider reaching out to a health care provider.

The EPDS is often administered by health care providers, but you can take it on your own just as effectively.

Other validated screeners, such as the PHQ-9, may also be used to screen for depression during pregnancy.

You don’t have to wait until giving birth to get treated

Although prescription medication can help some people treat certain cases of depression, it’s not the only course of treatment that a health care provider might recommend. Therapy and even lifestyle changes can both be helpful in improving the symptoms of peripartum depression. And if you keep an open line of communication with your health care provider during pregnancy, it’ll be that much easier to reach out for help during the postpartum period if you believe you might be struggling with postpartum depression.

You might have coverage for mental health services through your health plan

Many health plans offer coverage for different services related to mental health.

If you would like to review or have questions about your health plan benefits, call the number on the back of your member ID card.

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