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Postpartum Depression Research Needs Your Support

Last Updated on Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Roughly 10 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression following their pregnancies, and between five percent and eight percent of pregnancies are affected by preeclampsia. It is critical that women and their physicians are aware of the risks of both of these conditions, and specifically the connection between them. More research is required to better understand postpartum depression and to help develop methods to prevent, detect, and treat the disorder. The health reform law (Affordable Care Act or ACA) passed in 2010 included provisions to increase efforts in this area, and the community continues to await action. 

The link between preeclampsia and postpartum depression - sometimes manifested as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - has been established; numerous peer reviewed publications have shown the connection and advised that physicians should be aware of the risks to their patients. A 2010 study published in the

International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that women with complications during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, were more likely to develop postpartum depression. The risk was even greater for women with multiple complications; for example, women with preeclampsia who delivered via C-section had a higher chance of developing depressive symptoms than those who experienced one or the other. A second study showed that women with preeclampsia whose babies were admitted to the NICU after birth were at particular risk for postpartum depression. 

The health reform law encourages the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand postpartum depression research and activities in five areas: basic research, epidemiological studies, screening and diagnostics, clinical treatments, and public education campaigns. These efforts, taken together, would drastically improve the ability of obstetricians, midwives, physicians, and nurses to provide high quality care for women at risk for postpartum depression, including those who have had preeclampsia. Over four years have passed since the landmark health care law became law, and little action has been taken to address gaps in postpartum depression research. The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released a systematic review of the efficacy and safety of screening for postpartum depression on March 9, 2012. The report to Congress was required by the health reform law, but so far, it is the only activity called for in law that has been completed. In a 2012 report released by HHS's Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation titled, The Affordable Care Act and Women, postpartum depression was not mentioned at all. The Obama Administration often touts the ACA as especially important for women's healthcare. Preventive services including mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and well-care visits are covered, and the law requires maternity coverage as an essential health benefit within healthcare exchange marketplaces.

These are certainly all positive steps in maternal health and well-being, but the Foundation is also hopeful that there will be greater investment in research that generates more knowledge about preeclampsia and its connection to conditions like postpartum depression. 

 We want to know what you are doing in your local community to continue the advocacy fight for increased postpartum care. Follow us on Twitter and retweet with your thoughts, post and discuss on our Community Forum or send us comments on FacebookHistory has proven that everyone has a voice and we want to hear yours.

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