Exploring the Acceptability of Expanded Perinatal Depression Care Practices Among Women Veterans

J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Sep;37(Suppl 3):762-769. doi: 10.1007/s11606-022-07573-7. Epub 2022 Aug 30.


Background: Veterans receive obstetrical care from community-based providers contracted through the Veterans Health Administration (VA); however, Veterans remain eligible for VA mental healthcare in the perinatal period. To date, few studies have focused specifically on the mental health needs of Veterans during the perinatal period.

Objective: To examine the acceptability of more comprehensive perinatal mental healthcare screening and treatment in VA care, we explored pregnant and postpartum Veteran perspectives of United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations that aim to expand mental health counseling for the prevention and treatment of perinatal depression.

Design: Semi-structured interviews with pregnant and postpartum Veterans enrolled in VA care, integrated with quantitative survey data.

Participants: Pregnant and postpartum Veterans (n=27) who had delivered infants or were due by February 2020.

Approach: Framework analysis with an inductive approach was utilized to understand our data, interpret and code our transcripts, and develop themes.

Key results: Fewer than half (44%) of the women reported seeing a mental health provider at the beginning of their pregnancy. We found that Veterans support USPSTF recommendations in the VA, consider mental healthcare to be very important during the perinatal period, would like better access to mental healthcare resources and peer support networks, and suggest that perinatal depression screening could be more extensive.

Conclusions: These findings support the implementation of more comprehensive perinatal depression prevention policies and practices within VA care. Understanding the real-world feasibility and prevailing barriers to comprehensive perinatal depression care is needed to inform implementation of the USPSTF recommendations or a similar intervention tailored for VA care.

Keywords: Veterans; antenatal depression; mental health counseling; perinatal depression; postpartum depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Counseling
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Pregnancy
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans* / psychology