SSM Health Medical Minute: Depression, anxiety linger in some pregnant moms despite treatment

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — A new research study indicates antidepressants don’t always help ease depression and anxiety in pregnant women and new moms. The study tracked 88 pregnant US women through their pregnancy and up to 14 weeks after giving birth. Fifty percent reported mild symptoms of depression and 32 percent reported “clinically relevant” symptoms of depression.

Despite taking antidepressants, many of the women had lingering depression throughout their pregnancy and after giving birth. The author of the study concludes these women need to be continually monitored during pregnancy and postpartum for clinicians to tailor their treatment and alleviate symptoms.

Dr. Erica Melrose, OB/GYN in the OB Care Center at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles says, “as we know, mental health has become a very hot topic because it has not been treated as well as we would like to in the past. The pandemic has brought that to light as well. We worry about our mothers antepartum and postpartum. We know that approximately 15-20% suffer from postpartum depression but less than 50% bring it to their provider’s attention.”

“That research is showing that patients who are already on antidepressants, their depression may worsen. There are multiple reasons that may occur during pregnancy or postpartum. Many of those could be due to hormonal fluctuations after giving birth or multiple stressors in their environment and their new situation as being a mother can be stressful as well. Their current medication regimen may not be holding them as well as it had prior to delivery, so we are doing our best to increase our screening for those patients to catch them as best as we can.”

She says the OB Care Center focuses on new moms mental well being in numerous ways through screening from the first prenatal visit and again during their postpartum visits. She says many times patients express that their medications are not working as well so the OB Care Center team using a holistic approach to making sure patients receive the right dosage, mental therapies, the patient support lines, counseling and other specialists as needed.

“We screen with the Edenborough postpartum depression scale and based on what that score is, it helps us direct the treatment the patient needs.” SSM Health offers a moms-line that is available 24/7 to help moms who need support. The MOMS line phone number is 314-768-6667.

Depression in mothers can potentially affect their babies including increased risk of childhood developmental disorders. Pregnant women taking antidepressants often experience other health issues such as excess weight, infertility, migraines, thyroid disorders and asthma. Depression and anxiety affect 20% of women during pregnancy and after birth, which translates to an estimated 500,000 US women who have or will experience mental illness during pregnancy.

For more information from the OB Care Center at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7pm and FOX 2 News at 9pm.

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