Maternal Depression: Information for Health Care Providers

Maternal depression encompasses a wide range of mood disorders that can affect women during pregnancy or after giving birth. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of women experience some form of depression during pregnancy or within 12 months after giving birth. Maternal depression is the most common maternal morbidity following delivery.

Maternal depression significantly impacts the health and well-being of women, infants and families – yet often goes unrecognized or untreated. Pregnant women and new mothers have frequent contact with the health care system – including both maternal and pediatric health care providers - but providers may not know how to identify or address depression within their practices. In addition, women may be reluctant to raise questions with their providers because of stigma or lack of knowledge about depression.

As a health care provider, you may be the first to recognize signs of depression. Incorporating depression screening tools during prenatal visits, postpartum checkup or routine well-baby visits can provide opportunities for health care staff to discuss and look for signs of depression. According to 2011 NY PRAMS data, only 12% of women reported having a health care worker discuss with them what to do if they feel depressed during pregnancy or after delivery. Your screening and intervention could make all the difference in the world to women experiencing perinatal depression, and to their families.

Emergency Resources

If a woman is thinking about harming herself or her infant, help is needed immediately. If there is imminent danger to someone's life, call 911.

For women in crisis who need immediate help, state and local hotlines are available as resources for both health care providers and families:

The information on these pages was developed jointly by the New York State Department of Health and Office of Mental Health, in consultation with Margaret Spinelli MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Research Psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute.