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An assistant professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas is doing all that she can to help pregnant women get screened for perinatal depression. Marcia Clevesy, DNP, has been working at a Las Vegas clinic to improve screenings and documentation on a local level, particularly for postpartum depression.

Perinatal depression is the occurrence of a major or minor depressive episode during pregnancy or up to one year after childbirth, and affects as many as one in seven mothers. This term also includes postpartum depression (PPD), a common complication that occurs after childbirth.  But routine screenings for these occurrences is not standard for most health care providers.

Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published a recommendation to provide or refer pregnant women with an increased risk of perinatal depression to interventions. But while this report has just been released, Dr. Clevesy has been working to progress research and care for those with PPD, especially early on in pregnancy.

“It is important for a focus to be placed on detecting perinatal depression early on to prevent complications,” Dr. Clevesy shared with the UNLV News Center. “The earlier we can identify maternal depression the better, because we are then able to get patients into therapy and treatment sooner.”

Opening Up A National Discussion

Dr. Clevesy’s work has major positive impact both locally and nationally, especially as discussions of mental health overall are becoming more common and more open throughout the United States. As more people open up about their mental health in media and online, women are feeling more comfortable and secure discussing their own concerns and issues with their healthcare providers, allowing Clevesy and her colleagues to help strengthen their work in the Las Vegas area.

“I’ve been a women’s health nurse practitioner for many years, and want to continue to elevate the standard of PPD screening beyond simply asking patients if they’re depressed,” Dr. Clevesy told the UNLV News Center. “In collaboration with Dr. Tricia Gatlin, associate dean for undergraduate affairs at the School of Nursing, I recently implemented a system for providers at a local clinic to use an existing, reliable and validated screening tool — the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) — to screen for PPD as a means of promoting best practice among the maternal-child population.”

Dr. Clevesy also shared that since implementing the new system, PPD screening documentation rates have nearly doubled. Dr. Clevesy’s work is crucial for enlisting more Las Vegas health care providers to provide depression screenings for their pregnant patients, whether they use her screening tool or not.

“One tool is not necessarily preferred over the other. What matters is that health care providers are using a validated tool to effectively screen and promote a discussion regarding depression symptoms,” Dr. Clevesy said. “This assessment should start at the beginning of pregnancy and continue into the postpartum period.”

Lily Miller
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