Study: Vermont has highest rate of pregnancy depressive disorders

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A new study finds Vermont has some of the highest rates of depressive disorders among pregnant women during hospitalization.

The study, published in the journal "Obstetrics and Gynecology," found that in 2015, about 76 women per every 1,000 were diagnosed with depressive disorders during delivery hospitalizations in Vermont. That equals 421 women, which is an increase from 52 in 2001. It's one of the highest rates among all 50 states and one of two states with the fastest rate increase.

Vermont and Maine both had average increases of 3.8 per 1,000 women.

"I was actually excited we were able to capture this data because it confirms what we know about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders," said Sandra Wood, a certified nurse midwife with the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Wood says a screening of women through a home visit program in 2013 started a chain of events to help women with perinatal depressive disorders.

"What they were finding was 50 percent of women were screening at risk for depression," said Wood. "Which was startling."

Wood says depression and anxiety disorders during pregnancy can mean bad news for the mom, baby and the entire family.

"[The] pregnancy can end early," said Wood. "There can be high blood pressure in pregnancy and then after birth post-partum women, if they are depressed or anxious, this is not good for your children. It affects a baby's emotional and social growth, it increases their risk that they're going to have psychiatric diagnosis later in life."

Since the screening in that home visit program, Wood says a task force was started that has led to more education. As a consultant for the state, Wood has been able to raise awareness of perinatal depressive and anxiety disorders.

"Vermont certainly has some risk factors. We've got a rural population," said Wood. "The socioeconomic problems that come along with stressors that lead to depression. Transportation, access to treatment. There's all those issues that are a problem in Vermont along with the substance abuse that's become a problem."

A collaborative agreement between the state and the Health Resources and Services Administration now aims to improve the well-being of Vermont moms and families

"We screen for high blood pressure and diabetes in pregnancy and we haven't been so good at screening for depression and anxiety in depression, though we're getting a lot better," said Wood.