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Women's Health Channel
Reported May 31, 2012

Screening Pregnant Women for Mental Health Disorders

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – One in five pregnant women in developing countries, experience a severe mental disorder. This is due to more exposure to risk factors such as poor socioeconomic status, and unplanned pregnancy. Routine treatment of maternal disorders in these countries is rare, but a new screening method might help lower the risk.

The research conducted by Simone Honikman from the University of Cape Town represents one of the first attempts to develop and implement a mental health program for pregnant women in the developing world, where there is an extremely high (and often unrecognized) prevalence of maternal mental disorders.

"The Perinatal Mental Health Project developed an intervention to deliver mental health care to pregnant women in a collaborative, step-wise manner making use of existing resources in primary care," Simone Honikman was quoted as saying.

This new program includes training for health care workers, routine screening for maternal mental stress, and providing on–site counselors. Over three years, the project achieved high levels of uptake and acceptability. From July 2008 to the end of June 2011, 90% of 6,347 women who attended the facility for primary level care were offered mental health screening and of the 5,407 screened, 32% qualified for referral to a counselor, and 62% (1,079 women) agreed to be referred. Importantly, most women (88% of those sampled) reported that they were more able to cope with their presenting problem as a result of the counseling.

Honikman was quoted as saying, "Through routine screening and referral, the [Perinatal Mental Health Project] model demonstrates the feasibility and acceptability of a stepped care approach to provision of mental health care at the primary care level."

Source: PLos Medicine, May 2012

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