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Clinical and Translational Science Center

Clinical and Translational Science Center

NEWS | July 21, 2014

UC Davis study researches potential link to care for mothers battling depression: their child's pediatrician

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

Pediatricians will screen mothers for depression in a new research study conducted at UC Davis Children's Hospital. The grant is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Erik Fernandez y Garcia Erik Fernandez y Garcia

Depression in mothers parenting young children is common and undertreated. About one out of every five women will experience a bout with depression at some point while parenting a child, with most of those episodes occurring in the first year of a newborn's life. Studies have found that depression can negatively affect a mother's parenting and is associated with mental, behavioral and physical health problems in their children.

Researchers at UC Davis have been rethinking ways of reaching out to mothers of young children to identify those who may need help.

"Mothers may see their child's pediatric provider more often than their own adult provider. They also may be more motivated to seek care for depression if it is placed in the context of their children's health, so pediatric visits offer a significant opportunity to intervene," said Erik Fernandez y Garcia, lead investigator of the study.

In a recent pilot study, Fernandez y Garcia developed and tested a pediatric clinic-based intervention that included a depression screening and education for mothers, with a focus on explaining how depression care can improve the health of their children. Referral guidance and support were also provided.

The pilot study demonstrated that for the mothers who tested positive for depression in the screening, those who received the targeted pilot intervention sought help for their depression more frequently than mothers who received the type of non-targeted general depression advice they would get from their own doctor. The new study looks to refine the pilot intervention to increase its effectiveness and broaden its use to monolingual Spanish-speaking mothers.

"It's our hope that in this study, we will be able to better understand the support mothers will need to seek help for their maternal depression more often through this new channel - their child's pediatrician," said Fernandez y Garcia.

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital for children, serving infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and Level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for critically ill children. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. With more than 120 physicians in 33 subspecialties, UC Davis Children's Hospital has more than 74,000 clinic and hospital visits and 13,000 emergency department visits each year. For more information, visit children.ucdavis.edu.