Updated recommendations for postpartum depression screenings released
Just this week, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a statement saying they recommend that all pregnant women and new mothers be screened for postpartum depression (PPD). This is an update to their previous guidelines, which said that screening should only take place if resources for treatment existed.
While this policy update has received a large amount of media attention, it is not earth-shattering news to most OB/GYNs and midwives, many of whom have already been doing exactly this. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has already stated that all pregnant women should be screened at least once in the perinatal period (this includes pregnancy and the postpartum period).
While individual practices vary — and let’s be real, some obstetric providers just don’t screen or don’t do it well — for the most part, this is thankfully something that many doctors and midwives have built in to their postpartum visit routine.
However, it is true that the USPSTF recommendations might help convince those providers who have let postpartum depression screenings fall to the wayside to improve their practice. It also may help raise awareness that PPD (and anxiety, a very common mood disorder also seen in the postpartum period) should be routinely discussed at prenatal visits. These routine discussions will help women know what to look out for and who to contact should they feel they need help – rather than waiting until after giving birth and struggling to find assistance.
It is estimated that PPD affects about 12 to 15 percent of all women who give birth, making it one of the most common complications of childbirth. The good news is that it is often very treatable with therapy, medication, or both. The problem arises, however, when a woman doesn’t understand that she is suffering from PPD or doesn’t know where to seek treatment.
Hopefully, these recommendations will shed a spotlight on just how important this screening is and will also spur obstetric providers to realize they need to be comfortable treating a woman who screens positive for PPD. This may mean referring her to a therapist familiar with this disorder or feeling comfortable providing appropriate medications (or referring her to someone who does feel comfortable prescribing these).
Thankfully, awareness seems to be rising about PPD, and now more than ever, new moms can find support in the form of local support groups or online forums. One such online resource that has excellent information is Postpartum Support International. If you are struggling with PPD or know someone who is, providing these resources and a listening, non-judgmental ear can be the first step in getting the help that is desperately needed to get back on a healthy path!