First-of-its-kind Study Reveals Pairing OBs with Mental Health Professionals Increases Likelihood of Identifying, Treating Depression

Feb 07, 2020 at 12:49 pm by pj


Depression in women is a common problem not only after pregnancy but also during pregnancy. If not treated, it can have a serious and potentially dangerous impact on the mother that, in its most extreme form, can include maternal suicide. In addition, untreated maternal depression can lead to preterm birth, low birth weight, and longer-term developmental problems in her child. Yet research shows depression in pregnant women is seldom identified and rarely treated because women typically are not screened for depression during pregnancy and obstetric clinicians receive inadequate support to promote treatment.


In a study to be presented today at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting™, researchers will unveil findings that suggest with a team-based collaborative care program comprised of obstetricians and mental health professionals, pregnant women with depression are more likely to be identified and treated sooner for depression. The study was funded by the Friends of Prentice, a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with Northwestern Medicine Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago to finance innovative and leading-edge research and clinical initiatives that benefit women and infants. 


The observational study analyzed 7,028 women in the Chicago area. The women were divided into two cohorts. The first cohort, comprised of 3,227 women (55 percent), were part of a team-based program ― also known as a collaborative care program — at Northwestern Medicine called the COMPASS Program. Launched in January 2017, COMPASS serves five diverse prenatal clinics in the Chicago region. It provides depression support services for women during pregnancy and after childbirth. The COMPASS team includes a care coordinator, an obstetrician, a psychiatrist, and a therapist. The second cohort was comprised of 3,801 women (45 percent) who received prenatal care in the same five clinics, but prior to the launch of COMPASS.


Results showed that pregnant women in the COMPASS cohort were more likely to be screened for depression. Their screening rates for antenatal depression, also known as prenatal depression, increased from 33 percent to 81 percent. This type of depression can be a precursor to postpartum depression. Furthermore, women who screened positive for depression were more likely to receive a mental healthcare treatment plan.


“When it comes to identifying and treating depression in pregnant women, our current healthcare system leaves most women without adequate care,” said the study’s lead author Emily S. Miller, MD, MPH, a maternal-fetal medicine subspecialist and assistant professor at Northwestern University. “It’s not enough to have laws that require depression screening. Obstetric clinicians need guidance and resources on how to treat it. I believe this research represents the first step to changing clinician’s behavior because it gives obstetric clinicians ― who are the front line for the care of pregnant women — the tools they need to help identify and treat depression during pregnancy. The next step is to implement this research on a broader scale in multiple healthcare settings across the U.S.”



The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) is a non-profit, membership organization based in Washington, DC. With more than 4,000 physicians, scientists and women’s health professionals around the world, the Society supports the clinical practice of maternal-fetal medicine by providing education, promoting research and engaging in advocacy to optimize the health of high-risk pregnant women and their babies. SMFM hosts an annual scientific meeting in which new ideas and research related to high risk pregnancies are unveiled and discussed. For more information, visit and connect with the organization on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. For the latest 2020 Annual Meeting news and updates, follow the hashtag #smfm20.