A new study discovered depression during pregnancy is more common than predicted.
Researchers performing depression assessments at two Women, Infant and Children clinics in New Mexico discovered 23 percent of women met criteria for depression.
Nationwide, 10 percent to 16 percent of pregnant women meet the criteria for depression, and 70 percent show some depressive symptoms, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In June, ACOG said that screening of pregnant women for depression should be “strongly considered” but that there is not enough evidence to recommend it.
The authors of the new study say their findings suggest that screening for depression should be a routine part of prenatal and postnatal care.
They conducted a 10-week pilot project at WIC clinics in Santa Fe and Las Vegas, N.M., finding that 109 of 467 women who were screened had a high enough score on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to require a referral.
The work group recommended increased training on depression screening tools for providers and more support groups for women, in both English and Spanish.
Signs of depression in pregnant women include feeling dread about the pregnancy, anxiety, isolation from loved ones, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, constant sadness, changes in appetite and lack of ability to experience pleasure, according to the researchers.
Doctors say leaving severe depression untreated could increase the risk for low birthweight or premature birth.
When women are depressed they also are less likely to care for themselves and more likely to drink or smoke.
Experts say treatment options are available for pregnant women including counseling and antidepressants that are safe to take during pregnancy.