Go­ing pub­lic on de­pres­sion

Men­tal health care lack­ing for preg­nant women

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - JANELLE MILES

PREG­NANT women are more likely to be screened for risks of de­vel­op­ing post-natal de­pres­sion if they plan to give birth in a pub­lic hos­pi­tal, a “wor­ry­ing” Queens­land study has found.

Re­search in­volv­ing more than 30,400 Queens­land women who had ba­bies in the sec­ond half of 2015 found only 71.3 per cent, or about 21,700, were tested for men­tal health prob­lems dur­ing preg­nancy.

That is de­spite guide­lines rec­om­mend­ing all preg­nant women be screened for post­na­tal de­pres­sion risk. Sui­cide is one of the lead­ing causes of women dy­ing dur­ing preg­nancy and in the year after they give birth.

The re­search, pub­lished in the lat­est Med­i­cal Jour­nal of Aus­tralia, found that of women who gave birth in the pub­lic sysytem, al­most 19,000, or 91 per cent, were screened for men­tal health is­sues while preg­nant But the study found that less than 2800 women, or not even a third of the 9600 mums-to-be in the pri­vate sys­tem, were for­mally tested for de­pres­sive symp­toms.

“As one-quar­ter of preg­nant women in Aus­tralia re­ceive an­te­na­tal care in pri­vate hos­pi­tals, the 29 per cent screen­ing rate for pri­vate pa­tients is wor­ry­ing, be­cause it means they may not re­ceive op­ti­mal men­tal health care,” the MJA ar­ti­cle said.

“De­pres­sion dur­ing preg­nancy is strongly linked with post-natal de­pres­sion, fu­ture de­pres­sive episodes and a range of be­havioural and de­vel­op­men­tal con­se­quences for moth­ers and their chil­dren.”

The Univer­sity of Queens­land re­searchers sug­gest that a big­ger up­take of screen­ing in the pub­lic sys­tem may re­flect a greater aware­ness of men­tal health prob­lems. But Queens- land ob­ste­tri­cian Gino Pec­o­raro, one of the au­thors of the re­search, also suggested ob­ste­tri­cians in pri­vate hos­pi­tals could per­ceive their re­la­tion­ship with pa­tients to be suf­fi­ciently close that a screen­ing tool was not needed to iden­tify psy­cho­log­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties.

As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Pec­o­raro said that new Medi­care item num­bers in­tro­duced in late-2017 were de­signed to in­crease for- mal screen­ing of preg­nant women in pri­vate health care.

But he said the MJA study did not ad­dress the key is­sue of what hap­pened to women once they were iden­ti­fied as hav­ing men­tal health is­sues in preg­nancy. He said try­ing to ac­cess spe­cial­ist psy­chi­atric treat­ment for women with post-natal de­pres­sion in the pub­lic sec­tor was “next to im­pos­si­ble” with only half a dozen in­pa­tient beds avail­able and out­pa­tient ap­point­ments “very hard to come by”. LIFE­LINE 13 11 44

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