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Maternal depression screening

Depression is a common disorder that many women face, before, during, or after giving birth.

  • General Depression: A history of depression makes it more common for women to experience depression during pregnancy and after giving birth.
  • Prenatal Depression: depressive episodes that begin during pregnancy and can last six months or one year after delivery. Women experience symptoms of prenatal depression, which can include anxiety, problems sleeping, and excessive crying.
  • Baby Blues: The mix of ups and downs that a new mother experiences in the first two weeks of her baby’s life.
  • Postpartum Depression: An affective mood disorder that can affect women up to one year following the birth of their baby, which can include poor concentration, loss of energy, and lack of interest in the baby.
  • Postpartum Psychosis: A serious disorder women may experience, most likely those with a family history of bipolar disorder.

Who is at risk

  • Mothers under the age of 30
  • Parents of young children
  • White, non-Hispanic women
  • Latina adolescent mothers
  • Low-income women and women with low levels of education
  • Immigrants, especially Asian and Latina immigrant mothers

Symptoms

Maternal depression is a common condition that many women experience before, during or after becoming a mother. Maternal depression can show up in many ways, including experiencing a low mood over a long period of time, feeling extremely sad or angry, loss of energy, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts, difficulty concentrating, recalling details and making decisions, overeating or loss of appetite, feeling irritable or restless, trouble falling asleep, or sleeping too much, feeling sad, anxious or “empty” for a long period of time, having aches or pains that do not get better, and feeling hopeless or negative.

What you can do

  • Get and stay as healthy as you can – eat right, exercise, rest, and drink plenty of water.
  • Speak up if you are feeling sad during or after your pregnancy.
  • Build a support network and ask for help with the baby or your other responsibilities when you need it.

Preventive service at no cost

A postpartum checkup during the 1, 2, 4, and 6 month well-child visits, including depression and substance use disorder screenings and maternal depression screenings.

Why screening is important

Mothers who experience depression may have more difficulty being in tune with their baby and following their baby’s cues during their daily interactions which can have physical and emotional effects on the child. Infants with depressed mothers have more difficulty with attachment, emotional and behavioral regulation, learning, attention, and social adjustment.

What the screening is

The doctor will ask a set of standardized questions.

Treatment

Any suggestion of depression should trigger screening questions and providers furnishing these services as part of a well-child visit are guided to refer the mother to her obstetrician or other health care professional and appropriate community-based mental health services. The pediatrician to refer mothers for other appropriate care, including diagnosis, therapy and/or medication

Many treatments for depression are available, including cognitive and interpersonal therapies, medication, peer-to-peer support programs and support groups.

Additional tips

Bond with your baby. It releases a hormone that makes you feel happier, more care, and sensitive to others.

Resources