HealthWatch: Screening for post partum depression

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 6:53 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Many people are familiar with the term postpartum depression, a common condition seen in mothers after birth. Medical professionals are now calling it “perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.” Hailey Morgan reports on how common it is and how Vermont health care providers look for it.

“She asked me the question, ‘Have you ever had the feeling that you just cannot take it and you want to like, just shake him? Can you please stop.’ And I did have those feelings,” recalled Jessica Murray, a mother of two, describing the moment when her doctor asked her if she was doing okay after her second child. “I was not patient enough with Lincoln. It was more of a, ‘You’re crying but I don’t want to figure it out. What it is that is going on, I just want you to go away.’”

Dr. Sarah Guth, a pediatric psychiatrist at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, describes postpartum depression as something that can manifest as low mood or as anxiety. It causes many new mothers to feel overwhelmed and makes it difficult to find pleasure in everyday activities and bonding with their children. It can include feelings of confusion, racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, and negative thoughts about yourself as a parent.

“It was one in five before the pandemic. Some people say it’s as much as one in three now -- since the pandemic -- since there has been a lot of isolation in those early weeks following delivery. I think it’s getting better, so I would say about one in four,” Guth said.

Laura Pentenrieder with the Vermont Department of Health says the state has taken action by creating what they call “support delivered,” connecting parents to providers that can help. “It’s a wonderful resource that can be reached by calling Help Me Grow. Dial 211 and choose option six for help,” Pentenrieder said.

Dr. Guth says that pediatric offices in some states -- including Vermont -- have dedicated time to screen mothers for postpartum depression.

The recommended screenings usually take place at the child’s one, two, and six-month visits. Officials use the data to better help parents get the support they need.

“It’s called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It’s a quick screen that allows people to see who are looking at it, if a woman screens in positive -- it’s a score of ten or higher,” Guth said.

Murray says the care she received in Vermont was great but that it’s not always available in other states. “I was just talking with my friend yesterday about it. She was like, ‘Yeah, I kept mentioning things, bringing things up. I don’t want to say it out loud because I don’t want to diagnose myself, but there were those thoughts, those feelings.’ They’re just like, ‘Oh, it’s just hormonal,’” Murray said.

Murray says she is feeling a lot better now and her relationship with her sons is going great.