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Investigating Postpartum Depression

03/19/2013

For those of you who are involved in women’s health care, you are aware that some women suffer depression after having a baby, but do you know just how many do?

Patti Neighmond examined the statistics in her recent article posted on NPR’s Health News. She explores the largest study to date which shows that as many as 1 in every 7 women suffers from postpartum depression. Published in the journal, JAMA Psychiatry, the study finds that among women followed for a year after delivery, some 22 percent had been depressed. The study also recommends that all pregnant women and new mothers be screened for depression, to diagnose the problem and expedite treatment.

Why some women are more vulnerable to postpartum depression is unknown, but genetics likely play a role as well as hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy. Additionally, the sleep deprivation that typically occurs in caring for a newborn can compound with the  embarrassment a woman might feel in admitting she feels depressed.

What are your thoughts regarding implementing a universal screening for depression that could help women sort  through their feelings and identify those at risk for depression? The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says more evidence is needed before that type of recommendation can be made, but does suggest that doctors and health care workers perform a thorough psychiatric evaluation for any woman who has a history of depression.

What does your health care facility implement to screen for postpartum depression? Do you feel more could be done to identify depression early on and treat new mothers?

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