We're Failing New Moms by Not Screening Better for Depression, AAP Says

While perinatal depression is the most common childbirth complication in the US, most moms aren’t being properly treated.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Dec 2018
mom with postpartum depression holds baby
Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

For the first time in nearly a decade, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its statement about perinatal depression (PND), which is a term that refers to prenatal and postpartum depression (PPD). While PND is the most common childbirth complication in the US, mothers often don’t receive proper evaluation. And even when PND is diagnosed, they don’t receive adequate treatments.

The AAP wants pediatricians to do way more when it comes to screening, identifying and treating depression. It makes sense, a new mom sees her kid’s pediatrician much more than she visits her ob-gyn. So how can pediatricians help? For starters, more frequent PPD screenings. The AAP recommends women are screened at the one-, two-, four- and six-week well child visits. Additionally, it also suggests more support to encourage bonding between new moms and their babies, including breastfeeding help and education.

It’s crucial women get this support, because many times they’re actually unaware that they’re experiencing PPD, or if they are aware, they likely keep these emotions to themselves. In fact, 91 percent of women feel there is societal pressure to hide the struggles, anxieties and sadness of motherhood, a recent survey reveals.

And it’s not just the moms the AAP is worried about. Up to 25 percent of dads show signs of depression in the first year of parenting, and it increases to 50 percent when the mother experiences PPD too. Warning signs for men who suffer from depression after the birth of a child include substance abuse, violence and undermining breastfeeding.

“Fathers also experience a high rate of postpartum depression and need to be supported, identified and referred for treatment,” says Michael Yogman, MD, a coauthor of the report.

In order to be the best parent possible for your little one, you need to be the best version of yourself. For that to happen, you have to understand that your well-being matters too. Remember, you’re not alone. So many new parents, including a handful of celebrities, have gone through the same struggle as you. The fist step to recovery is talking to your doctor and asking for help.

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