More than 800 women with depression during pregnancy received help since 2007

More than 800 women with depression during pregnancy received help since 2007

File photo of a pregnant woman. AFP/LOIC VENANCE

SINGAPORE: Since 2007, programmes under the National University Hospital (NUH) and KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), which help to provide screening and early intervention for postnatal depression, have screened around 80,050 women.

Among them, 818 women have been referred to and seen by psychiatrists for further follow up, said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health, in Parliament on Tuesday (Jul 4). 

She was responding to questions from Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam on the measures put in place in hospitals to identify and diagnose prenatal and postnatal depression and whether all hospitals are required to screen women for pre-natal and postnatal depression.

Ms Rahayu also wanted to know whether there are programmes to educate husbands and extended family members about the symptoms of prenatal and postnatal depression and whether these efforts are part of the National Mental Health Blueprint.

According to Dr Khor, KKH and NUH account for 90 per cent of the public sector deliveries. Since 2007, both hospitals have been funded under the National Mental Health Blueprint to provide screening and early intervention for postnatal depression.

Programmes under the two hospitals, namely the NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service (WEHS) and KKH’s Postnatal Depression Intervention Programme (PDIP), provide depression screening at various stages of the pregnancy.

Both programmes accept patients referred from other hospitals, including private hospitals, said Dr Khor. “Since 2007, both programmes have screened around 80,050 women, and 818 women were subsequently referred to, and seen by psychiatrists for further follow up,” she added.

According to Dr Khor, women who are screened positive for depression would be managed by a multidisciplinary team comprising a psychiatrist, case manager, and psychologist. The women and their family members will also be given useful contacts and information on managing their emotional health.

Both programmes also provide antenatal talks and classes open to women and their spouses, covering antenatal and postnatal depression, and on keeping emotionally well during and after pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the remaining 10 per cent of public sector deliveries is covered by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), which has a psychiatry clinic located within the obstetric-gynaecology specialist outpatient clinic. Obstetricians who pick up women with antenatal and postnatal depression symptoms can refer them to the psychiatry clinic, said Dr Khor.

In response to a supplementary question raised by Ms Rahayu who asked about efforts to encourage and develop these programmes in other hospitals and efforts to widen awareness for this issue, Dr Khor noted that the MOH sent a clinical practice guideline on depression to all practitioners in public and private hospitals in 2010. The clinical practice guideline includes a section on maternal depression.

“The doctors are encouraged and advised to ask women specific questions to detect if they perhaps may have antenatal or postnatal depression and refer them for appropriate help,” said Dr Khor.

In addition, obstetricians, who help to manage the women during their pregnancy, are expected to identify symptoms of antenatal or postnatal depression symptoms and refer them to appropriate intervention and treatment programmes at KKH and NUH.

But more needs to be done, said Dr Khor.

“We need to see how we can continue to strengthen our efforts to engage and outreach, not just the pregnant women, their spouses and family members. But also the public in general, including the employers. (The) Health Promotion Board (HPB) has a management training workshop for employers to help HR personnel to identify symptoms of depression,” she said.

Source: CNA/sk