The World Health Organization has declared that maternal mental health disorders constitute a major public health challenge. One of the most concerning conditions is perinatal depression (PND). The PND Venture team is striving to improve the mental health of mothers and their offspring by establishing screening methods to identify, profile and track at-risk women in order to intercept the disease prior to the impact on both the mother and infant.
“When you think about the concept of disease interception – identifying risk and intervening early before the disease progresses – you realize that you can’t get much earlier than in the womb. Intercepting perinatal depression could enable us to improve maternal health and positively impact fetal neurocognitive development and healthy bonding between mother and her child.”
Kevin Wildenhaus, Ph.D.
Behavioral Science Lead & Perinatal Depression Venture Leader
Disease Interception Accelerator
Approximately 10-20 percent of women develop PND.5 In fact, women in their childbearing years make up the largest group of Americans with depression.5 Undiagnosed and untreated PND is also associated with increased rates of maternal suicide.5 However, PND impacts not just the mother but also her child, increasing the risk 3-4 times that the mother will deliver her baby pre-term or with low birth weight.5 Costs associated with pre-term births, including medical care, delivery, early intervention and special education, and lost productivity, totaled $5.7 billion in 2005.5 Further, depression in pregnancy can alter the baby’s brain development and increase susceptibility to mood disorders and cognitive disabilities.