Typically women are screened for depression symptoms shortly after giving birth. A new study reports that this practice may fail to identify those at a high risk to develop symptoms months after delivery.
The study used data from 1,432 women in 16 US states; the data was compiled by the Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. A questionnaire was given to each woman 4-12 weeks after giving birth. The women were asked to rate their level of the following:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of appetite
- Thoughts of self-harm
- Other symptoms of depression
At the initial screening, all the women scored in the low range, showing little to no risk for postpartum depression. A secondary survey was conducted 6-months after giving birth and 10.9% of those scored high enough to be considered at risk; 30% of those women were considered “very high risk”. An additional screening done at 12 months after delivery showed another 6,1% of women reporting postpartum depression symptoms; a full 19% of those women were classified as very high risk.
The study points to a wide hole in the safety net used to identify postpartum depression. More open and honest discussion is needed; women need to know that it is OK to say you are struggling. There is a myth associated with giving birth and bringing a child in to the home; it is not always easy and many do not have an adequate level of help and support at home. It is important to point out that the study did not have access to other health and personal statistics of the screened mothers. Obesity, for example, is often linked to an increased risk of postpartum depression. Also, it is unknown if any of the women were victims of domestic violence, single mothers, or lacked good social support.
If you are a patient of TWC, know that we take the overall well-being of our patients very seriously. If you need to reach out for help – we are here. Our triage nurses are our first layer of contact. Your physician cares deeply about your mental and physical help and has resources available to get you the help you need.