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Exploring Mental Health in the Prenatal Genetic Counseling Setting


This study was designed to determine if any specific demographic or historical factors could be correlated with depression and anxiety among patients who were being seen for prenatal genetic counseling. Prior to seeing the genetic counselor, participants were given an anonymous 32-question survey that assessed demographics, pregnancy history, genetic counseling referral indication and mental health history, followed by an 8-question PROMIS screen for depression and an 8-question PROMIS screen for anxiety. In total, 122 women participated in the study. Overall, 14.8% of participants screened positive for depression, and 24.6% of participants screened positive for anxiety. We were able to determine 7 demographic/historical factors that correlated with participants’ depression status and 7 demographic/historical factors that correlated with participants’ anxiety status. The only two factors that were statistically significant for both a positive depression and a positive anxiety screen were the historical questions regarding whether a patient had a prior history of depression and whether there was a personal history of anxiety.

The results of the study support the idea that a mental health history assessment is a logical and beneficial extension of the risk assessment that is already performed within the prenatal counseling session. At a minimum, we recommend that a brief mental health history assessment be made through direct questioning of patients in the prenatal genetic counseling setting to identify those who might be at risk for either recurrence or new onset of a mental health disorder during pregnancy or in the post-partum period.

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