Doctors recommend more screening for new moms

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Depression during and after pregnancy is very common, but about half of women go undiagnosed and untreated. Now a new report is calling for expectant mothers and new moms to be screened often.

Kristin Bowles is a mother of two. When she had her son four years ago, she had concerns.

“Just feeling a lot more panic, difficulty sleeping, difficulty being able to shut my brain off,” she remembers.

Kristin, a social worker,  was eventually diagnosed with post partum anxiety and prescribed medication.

“As a first time mom, I wasn’t sure if those thoughts were normal  versus not normal,” she explains.

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics aims to better identify mental health issues for moms before and after birth. The group recommends screening once during pregnancy, and then asks pediatricians to screen moms during infant well visits up to 6 months of age.

Report Author Dr. Michael Yogman says, “Sadness, irritability, sleeplessness, I think the sleep deprivation that all new parents experience in the first few months after birth is certainly a risk factor for post partum depression.”

The report says post-partum depression, if left untreated, can affect a child’s development and cause family relationship problems.

Dr. Yogman says diagnosing depression in fathers is also important.

“They may present a little differently with some different symptoms because they are not as likely to admit to sadness,” Dr. Yogman explains.

Anxiety and depression often occur together. When Kristin was pregnant with her daughter, her psychologist followed her closely. She was also screened at her baby’s well visits.

She says, “Women should be talking to each other and to their doctors and getting connected to the right supports. That only makes you a better mom, a better woman.”

She hopes reducing the stigma will help other women get the help they need .  

About 15-to-20 percent of new mothers are affected by prenatal and post natal depression.

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