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Helping Stressed Moms-To-Be Stay Healthy

Tackling tough problems together works best, researchers say

FRIDAY, May 20, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Women facing a slew of unhealthy events or behaviors during pregnancy -- such as depression, domestic violence and smoking -- can benefit most when specialists tackle all of these troubles simultaneously, and when these "psycho-behavioral" interventions continue after the baby is born, researchers report.

Psycho-behavioral interventions involve behavior modification therapies and other non-drug methods that help pregnant women counter stressors such as depression, smoking, domestic violence or exposure to secondhand smoke.

"Many of these problems happen in clusters, and so it makes sense to treat them together. The women who received this intervention did significantly better," study author Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, interim chair of the department of prevention and community health in The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, said in a prepared statement.

The three-year study included 1,044 pregnant black women in the Washington, D.C. area. Unlike many interventions for pregnant women, this one continued to assist the mothers for up to 10 weeks after delivery.

"It's important to keep the intervention going after the baby is born. Some women who quit smoking during pregnancy and vowed to stay off cigarettes, for example, may decide to light up again after they have their baby," El-Mohandes said.

The intervention did not seem effective against post-partum depression. This may be because this form of depression isn't present while a woman is pregnant, when most of the intervention is taking place, El-Mohandes speculated.

The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, in Washington, D.C.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about safe motherhood.

SOURCE: Pediatric Academic Societies, news release, May 14, 2005
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