Death by suicide and overdose are leading causes of postpartum death, according to MMRC data. Untreated maternal mood disorders are serious health conditions that can even impact the life of an unborn child.
The ACOG held a forum to discuss methods for implementing new programs with improved mental health screening techniques. Michael Urig, MD, FACOG, Women’s Health Arizona physician, was among the forum representatives.
“As physicians at the forefront of women’s healthcare, we need to ensure that screening for maternal mood disorders are being done as early and efficiently as possible,” explains Dr. Urig. “Let’s lead the charge in implementing these new programs, which will encourage other organizations to follow suit at the national level.”
Increased Screenings Improve Outcomes
Most gynecologists today screen women for postpartum depression at their six-week checkup following delivery. However, maternal health experts, including Dr. Urig, suggest screening women for mood disorders before, during and after pregnancy to improve patient outcomes.
With a simple questionnaire, more women at risk for anxiety and depression can be identified. Then they can be treated with counseling, nutrition, lifestyle changes and medication.
Case Study Analysis Identifies Challenges
Attendees included U.S. doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists and nurse midwives. During the session, participants split into small groups to discuss case studies of typical patients affected by maternal mood disorders. Their goal was to consider the opportunities and challenges related to helping the patient work through the health system. Then, they could identify the best way to screen and treat the patient in a timely manner.
According to Dr. Urig, the following are the biggest challenges in getting depression screening programs implemented nationwide:
- Inconsistent protocols. Getting a consistent protocol in place is crucial to identifying mental health issues in women.
- Referral follow-up. While physicians may provide referrals, they need a plan in place to ensure that the patient pursued the mental health care. Ongoing postpartum care is essential.
- Deductibles. Huge insurance deductibles may cause women to put their mental health on the back burner for financial reasons.
Insights from the forum helped develop screening and treatment toolkits.
Preserving Families and Society
Advocating for maternal mental health is especially important to Dr. Urig because of the important role of mothers in society. “As healthcare providers, we need to support mothers during and after pregnancy so they can fulfill their roles at home and at work,” he says. “Otherwise, they may not be there to take care of their family—which is the core of society. If a key portion of the family unit isn’t functioning, everything can fall apart.”
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.