Health Check Kids: Managing maternal depression

    Rhode Island Kids Count is shedding light on the magnitude of maternal depression. (WJAR)

    Rhode Island Kids Count is shedding light on the magnitude of maternal depression.

    Nationally, as many as 20 percent of all pregnant or postpartum women experience depression.

    Elizabeth Burke Bryant, who is the executive director of RI Kids Count, said there are a few reasons why.

    "The two highest risk factors are unplanned pregnancy and a history of depression," she said.

    In the Ocean State, depression among pregnant and new mothers was more prevalent among the poor. More than twice as many low-income women battle depression compared to higher income mothers, according to a new issue brief from Rhode Island Kids Count.

    "For low-income women, there are many more stress factors -- the issue of bringing the baby home, not having the resources that are needed sometimes in the home to care for the baby, a precarious rental situation," Burke Bryant said.

    Depression can affect the child's development. A YouTube video entitled, "The Still Face Experiment," was published by UMASS Boston nine years ago. It starts with positive feedback from mom, as narrated by Dr. Edward Tronick.

    "She gives a greeting to the baby,” Tronick saod. “The baby gives a greeting back to her. This baby starts pointing different places and the mother's trying to engage her."

    Then, the mother is asked to not respond to her baby.

    "The baby very quickly picks up on this," said Tronick.

    The baby tried to engage mom and then begins to turn away or cry.

    "Even in this two minutes, they don't get the normal reaction. They react with negative emotions. They turn away, they feel the stress of it," Tronick said.

    "All of the research on brain development and healthy child development tells us that what is absolutely necessary for healthy child developments are those kinds of very positive parent-child interactions," Burke Bryant said of the video and of its new briefing paper.

    That's why RI Kids count said widespread screening during and after pregnancy is crucial. The report also highlights what's available in terms of treatment, like the Day Program at Women and Infants Hospital, where they treat the depression in mothers while bringing them and their babies closer.

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