As many as 1 in 5 mothers experience postpartum depression, prompting a government health panel to recommend mothers be screened for depression both during and after birth.
Evidence also suggests that what we've historically considered "postpartum" often begins during pregnancy, and treating women prior to delivery is an important and effective measure.
According to this New York Times article, the depression-screening guidelines proposed in 2009 recommended that adults should be screened, "if clinicians have the staff to provide support and treatment."
It's too bad they didn't ask my opinion because I would have helpfully pointed out that the guidelines DON'T MAKE NO SENSE.
Clearly the guiding factor in deciding whether or not to screen an adult -- especially pregnant women whose mental health impacts their infants -- should not be: Hmmm, do we have enough staff? No? Ok, let's just move on and hope it goes away.
But, alas, we live in America, Land of Lawsuits. Better not to go looking for trouble, find it, and consequently be sued because, despite the findings, no one was available to follow-up with care.
The new guidelines recommend screening as necessary -- regardless of a given caregiver's available resources -- because mental health support is now more widely available through various outlets beyond the doctor's office.
It is, however, important to note that public mental health services are indeed woefully underfunded and understaffed. Further, mental illness is still much more widely stigmatized than it is publicly admitted to or freely discussed over coffee.
All the more reason why the reality of, and truth about, mental illness -- postpartum or otherwise -- is an urgent national conversation we need be continually having.
To read and understand more about maternal depression, its treatment and its impact, check out these links:
Panel Calls for Depression Screening During and After PregnancyThinking of Ways to Harm Her: New Findings on Timing and Range of Maternal Mental IllnessDepression Screening Recommended For All Pregnant Women, New Mothers
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