A mother's emotional health is as important as her physical health during pregnancy and after delivery. That's why, during May, Maternal Depression Awareness Month, Cigna (NYSE: CI) is encouraging soon-to-be and new mothers to get screened and understand the symptoms of prenatal and postpartum depression.
"Having a new child is a very exciting and emotional time for the entire family," said Dr. Doug Nemecek, senior medical director for Cigna's behavioral health business. "While mood swings or bursts of crying are often caused by 'the baby blues,' it's important for new parents to identify more serious mental health issues like postpartum depression or birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Depression is often not diagnosed or treated - talk to your doctor about preventive screening and treatment."
Postpartum depression occurs in approximately 10 to 20 percent of women either during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some of the signs of postpartum depression are feeling very sad, hopeless or empty; feeling afraid to be alone with the baby; loss of pleasure or interest in daily activities; loss of appetite or losing weight; difficulty sleeping, or an inability to concentrate.
In recognition of Maternal Depression Awareness Month, Cigna is sponsoring the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative (CMMHC) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) conference today in Sacramento, Calif. at the Capitol. Founded by Joy Burkhard, a Cigna employee, CMMHC is an organization dedicated to increasing awareness, screening and treatment of maternal mental health disorders. It convenes doctors, legislators, organizations and experts to focus on issues around maternal depression.
"We are extremely proud of Joy Burkhard for founding the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative and for her commitment to raise awareness about depression in new mothers," said Dr. Nemecek. "It is part of Cigna's mission to encourage and support employees like Joy who are so passionate about helping the local community, which in turn helps people live their healthiest life."
Cigna also offers a free online toolkit, including education about postpartum depression, questions to ask the doctor and a short assessment women can take to determine if they should seek professional help. Customers enrolled in plans that include Cigna's Healthy Pregnancies, Healthy Babies® maternity program have access to screening for stress and possible depression during pregnancy, as well as two to five days following delivery and again in three weeks after delivery to help to identify postpartum depression. Cigna also offers a free depression screening tool on its website for physicians.
Dr. Nemecek offers ten tips for pregnant women and new mothers:
- Review your emotional and physical health with your doctor at each visit
- Get plenty of sleep without interruption
- Schedule alone time to relax or do something that makes you feel good
- Share how you feel and surround yourself with family or friends who will listen
- Look for local moms groups or join an online community
- Take credit for small things you are able to accomplish throughout the day, don't be hard on yourself if you miss a deadline or forget to do something
- Make time to exercise and establish healthy eating habits
- If your employer offers an employee assistance program (EAP), use it. An EAP is usually free to the employee, it's a great resource for coping with stress and depression, and can also help with child care resources for a new mother
- Seek professional help if you continue to feel stressed or sad
- Ask your doctor about preventive screenings