We see it far too often--50% of women who have postpartum depression don't get diagnosed and/or treated for their depression, and that's an unacceptable problem clinicians believe needs addressing.
But the clinicians who believe it so important that they've updated perinatal depression guidelines for the first time since 2010 is the American Academy of Pediatrics. Yes, your children's doctors believe they have a responsibility for screening women, and have suggested in their new guidelines that women are screened for depression during their pregnancy and then again at their one-, two-, four- and six-month checkups.
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The organization of pediatricians believes that screening women consistently for depression at the ends of their well-child visits for their babies may make a difference in the way women are treated and/or diagnosed. Currently, about half of pediatricians in the organization make this routine, and advocates say it makes sense as they see new mothers usually more often than does their OBGYN or primary care physician.
Dr. Marian Earls is an author of the latest report and says that helping mothers deal with their mental health helps the whole family. They believe strengthening family relationships with a mother's wellbeing will give a buffer for the baby as well, as a mom's mental health can affect her child's development in numerous ways.
Dr. Jason Rafferty is a co-author of the study and said that postpartum depression is a form of toxic stress that may affect the way a baby's brain develops. As well, it can cause issues with family dynamics, breastfeeding and even the child's medical treatment. He believes that pediatricians are in a perfect and unique situation where they can make a difference for mother and baby.
The pediatricians also believe that fathers should be screened as well, if they're available, because up to 25% of fathers show depressive symptoms during the first year their baby is born. If the mom also suffers from postpartum depression, up to 50% of men suffer from depressive symptoms and research has shown that men who suffer such depression after their baby is born are more likely to become abusive, turn to substance abuse and/or damage the breastfeeding relationship with a mother. Another co-author, Dr. Michael Yogman, said that identifying fathers and referring for treatment will help them be supported as well.
Related: Study Finds Mothers Of Baby Boys More At-Risk For Postpartum Depression
The AAP also reiterated risk factors for postpartum deprssion, and point out that for mothers who are at risk, or have significant stress factors in their life, screening at well-checks can be beneficial for both mother and baby. Increasing screenings will help parents get the help they need, and in turn, positively impact the long-term wellbeing and health of the entire family.
When they say, "It takes a village," these new updated guidelines are exactly what that means. When we begin to look at the health and wellbeing of children from all angles--including the health and wellbeing of mothers--tremendous differences can be and are made in the life of both.