Parliament: Screening, help available for women with post-natal depression

SINGAPORE - Two public hospitals have screening programmes to identify women who may be suffering from post-natal depression, said Senior Minister of State Amy Khor in Parliament on Tuesday (July 4).

She was responding to a question from Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC), who had asked about the measures put in place to help those with pre- or post-natal depression, and if there are programmes to educate family members about the warning signs.

In November last year, a 29-year-old mother fell to her death from her 12th-storey unit with her two-month-old daughter in her arms. Giving his findings into the deaths in May, State Coroner Marvin Bay suggested that more be done to help women with post-natal depression.

Dr Khor said that at both KK Women's and Children's Hospital and the National University Hospital (NUH) - which together account for nine in 10 deliveries in the public sector - depression screening is typically provided two to eight weeks after a woman gives birth, during her outpatient review at clinics.

Under the NUH's Women's Emotional Health Service, they are also screened when they first register, and again during the second and third trimesters.

"Since 2007, both programmes have screened about 80,050 women, and 818 women were subsequently referred to, and seen by psychiatrists for further follow-up," Dr Khor said.

At the Singapore General Hospital, which accounts for the remainder of public sector deliveries, a psychiatric clinic is located within the obstetric-gynaecology outpatient clinic. Obstetricians who pick up signs of depression in women can refer them there.

Dr Khor added that there are also materials and courses available at both public and private hospitals to teach people how to recognise the signs of post-natal blues.

"But... we will need to see how we can continue to strengthen our efforts to engage and outreach (to) not just the pregnant women and their spouses and family members, but also the public in general - including, of course, employers," Dr Khor said.

In a written response to Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh on Monday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that an NUH study found that about 12 per cent of women go through depression when they are pregnant, and 7 per cent experience post-natal depression. Those who are identified as having depression are cared for by a team which includes a psychiatrist, case manager, and psychologist.