Group recommends insurance cover counseling for new moms at risk for depression

Posted at 2:55 PM, Feb 15, 2019

Bringing a child into the world is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, experiences.

That's why, for the first time, a US panel of experts is recommending expecting and new moms to get counseling if they have risk factors for depression. The panel also says insurance should cover it.

Lorretta Noratreschi can still remember the frightening thoughts that crossed her mind in the days after her daughter was born.

“What if I picked up this knife and stabbed my baby, or what if I jumped off a railing and killed myself?” Noratreschi recalls.

She told her nurses about her thoughts. They were able to recognize her symptoms, and she started counseling.

Noratreschi was excited to hear the US Preventive Services Task Force is recommending doctors identify pregnant women and new moms who are at-risk for depression and help them get counseling.

Under the Affordable Care Act, private insurance plans are required to follow the guidelines and cover it at no additional cost.

“I hope that we take away the shame and embarrassment around having these types of conditions,” says Brooke Vanek, a licensed professional counselor at Luna Counseling Center.

Vanek says the new guidelines could help make counseling a part of standard care for pregnant women and new moms.

As many as 1 in 7 women suffer from depression either during pregnancy or after giving birth.

“We really try and bring in this sense of we're here for you with a non-judgmental space,” Vanek says. “We want you to know that this is not unusual. This is treatable in most cases.”

Vanek says insurance coverage could remove a barrier that’s keeping many women from getting help.

“I think that's one of those areas that feels like a luxury for some to be able to do therapy, and so it's one of those areas that is quick to get kicked out of the system,” Vanek says.

Some experts say the guidelines might be challenging to implement, saying it can be hard to identify women at-risk. Additionally, the US is facing a shortage of mental health providers. Still, many believe it’s a step forward in the right direction.

“You can feel really hopeless when you're suffering from depression or anxiety and counseling gives you hope, and it gives you a way to just get from day to day,” Noratreschi says.