New guidelines calling for pregnant women and women who recently gave birth to be screened for postpartum depression came out this week. Well it’s about time, I thought.
Honestly, I’m a bit confused that the frequency of postpartum depression is presented by the media as some kind of revelation. For ages it’s been known that the majority of new mothers report lowered mood after giving birth. The majority! Back in 2009, when I wrote “Bad Mommy! The Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression,” the Mayo Clinic reported as many as 80% of mothers said they experienced the baby blues and that postpartum depression occurred in 10-20% of women after giving birth. Today it’s like, Wow! a whole new finding that “one in eight and as many as one in five women” develop symptoms of postpartum depression. Which, btw, translates to 10-20%.
Whatever! When it comes to women’s health the sands of awareness and change are slow indeed! At least in this case we are going in the right direction.
“Depression is among the leading causes of disability in persons fifteen years and older. It affects individuals, families, businesses, and society and is common in patients seeking care in the primary care setting. Depression is also common in postpartum and pregnant women and affects not only the woman but her child as well.“
The preamble to the latest recommendation statement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is clear. It would be a good thing for medical professions who care for women to know about postpartum depression and make an assessment for it part of their routine exam.
Please, medical professionals, get some training in how to do this from a behavioral health professional! Sensitivity is just as important as a valid screening tool. Women may be reluctant to report their lowered mood because she ‘should be happy’ about her new baby. Anything less would be failure.
After the screening, what to recommend once a woman is shown to have postpartum depression? Anti-depressant medication is usually not the way to go if a woman is pregnant or trying to breast feed.
Psychotherapy is the recommended, effective treatment. Find out who in your community has expertise in the treatment of postpartum depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often sited as the psychotherapy modality of choice but training in the specifics of postpartum depression is important, too.
This is a subject we care deeply about at Explore What’s Next. There are therapists here in ongoing professional training to be up on the latest in the assessment and treatment of postpartum depression. If you think you might have postpartum depression and would like to talk with someone who gets it, call Nicole Brown, LCSW. If you are a medical professional and would like assistance identifying and implementing a good screening tool for your patients, also call Nicole.