Study: Everyone, Especially New Moms, Should Be Screened for Depression

All pregnant women and new moms should be screened for depression, according to recommendations from a new study by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.

Dr. Michael Pignone, one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times, “there’s better evidence for identifying and treating women with depression during and after pregnancy. We specifically called out the need for screening during this period.”

A Common Problem

The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) says that prenatal and postpartum depression are both common problems, often triggered by the rapid hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and birth. A recent analysis of 30 studies found that about 20 percent of women experience depression within a year of giving birth, with the problem becoming severe in about half of those new moms. In addition to typical depression symptoms, depression also causes some women to envision ways to harm or kill their babies when it goes to an extreme and turns into postpartum psychosis.

Faster Diagnosis, Faster Treatment

Under the new guidelines, health professionals would be more likely to identify problems early and help women get treatment. OWH says that talk therapy, medication, or a combination of those two methods typically alleviates the depression.

Screening is an important tool, and you can also watch for the signs of prenatal or postpartum depression if you’re a mother or mom-to-be yourself or know someone else who’s expecting a baby or who had one recently. WebPsychology has some good information on the topic, and OWH lists the following warning signs:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious or overwhelmed
  • Not having much of an appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Crying spells

Babies Affected, Too

In addition to effects on the mother, OWH says that postpartum depression affects infants, potentially causing the following problems:

  • Increased crying
  • Issues with mother/child bonding
  • Language development delays
  • Behavior problems

Women are more at risk of prenatal or postpartum depression if they’re young, don’t have a strong support system, have negative feelings about their pregnancy, or are having money and/or relationship problems. A family history of mental health issues also plays a role, although anyone can be affected, even if no traditional risk factors are present.

Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you think you might have prenatal or postpartum depression. Catching this issue early has big benefits for both you and your baby.