Screening Mothers for Postpartum Depression

During your baby’s first six months of ‘Well Baby’ appointments, mothers are screened for postpartum depression using a simple questionnaire that has been proven to be highly effective at detecting postpartum depression. If screening is positive, your child’s healthcare provider will review your answers with you and help you in getting care, through your obstetrical or primary care provider.

Postpartum depression is very common. It affects 1 in every 7 mothers and is more severe than just “the baby blues” (or feeling tired and being more moody after giving birth). Symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe and include intense sadness, fatigue and increasing or overwhelming anxiety. These symptoms can become severe enough to make it hard for you to take care of yourself and your baby.

Typically, postpartum depression starts between 1-3 weeks after your baby is born & is more common within the first 6 months after delivery. If you are experiencing symptoms that have been present for more than 2 weeks, you should let your healthcare provider know immediately. Untreated symptoms interfere with your ability to bond with and enjoy your baby.

There are many factors that contribute to postpartum depression. It is likely caused by a mix of physical and emotional components. After giving birth, a new mother’s estrogen and progesterone levels drop. This sudden decrease in estrogen and progesterone increases the risk of depression. If you have a history of depression or are currently being treated for depression, you have a greater risk of developing postpartum depression. Other stressors that can contribute to your risk include: money concerns, health issues, relationship problems and lack of support from family or friends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of postpartum depression appears to be more common due to the need for social distancing, which has caused an increase in physical isolation from family and friends.

Your provider can help you decide the best treatment plan for you. Counseling/psychotherapy and medication therapy are two common types of treatments used for postpartum depression. Counseling (talk therapy) with a mental health provider is helpful at identifying the underlying cause and developing a plan for getting better. Typically, counseling is done in private and can be done using telemedicine – making it easier for you to access care. In some cases, group therapy may be available. Your provider may advise the use of an antidepressant medication. In most cases, medication can be prescribed safely while breastfeeding. Counseling and/or medication therapy can be used alone or in combination together.

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