Postpartum depression and your pediatrician: What's being asked?
The Doc Smitty promises to do better in watching for depression among new moms
Dear new moms,
I have to start with an apology.
It’s not that I didn’t care, or wasn’t concerned.
I asked about feedings and dirty diapers. I asked about sleep positioning. I asked about your plans for vaccination. I educated on how to take a temperature and what a fever is, whom you should call when you are concerned.
I know a lot about your baby from our little time together.
But, I often forgot to ask about you.
Sometimes, if you looked particularly tearful, concerned … I don’t know, maybe distraught, I asked how you were doing. You might have said “fine” and I probably left it that.
Recent news reports reminded me that I should be doing better.
Depression affects about 30 percent of women between 18 and 44 years of age. I don’t want to get bogged down with more stats, but about 15 percent of women in their reproductive years take antidepressants. Most experts agree that untreated depression carries much more risk to babies than medications for depression. Studies have shown mixed results with most indicating that they are safe and others indicating a slight increase in risk for birth defects.
A special US Preventative Service Task Force report stated that all adults should be screened for depression but placed particular emphasis on the importance of screening pregnant and new moms. They conclude that screening should be implemented “with adequate systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and appropriate follow-up.”
If new moms should be screened for depression, who is going to do it if I don’t? Many don’t go back to their obstetricians until six weeks. What doctor are they seeing in the mean time? Who is going to screen them for postpartum depression? It has to be me.
Many pediatricians do this very well. They have built a system in place and screening has been part of their process for years.
Those of us who didn’t have many reasons…
Other priorities took over.
Checkup times are too short.
We’re not sure what we would do when we identified someone with postpartum depression.
But none of those are good excuses.
Because of this, I promise to work to develop a system that works.
I have to.
For you and for your baby.
I will report back with more soon.
- Increased irritability
- Loss of patience
- Quick mood changes
- Excessive energy or extreme fatigue
- A sense of feeling hopeless or overwhelmed
If you are someone you know is suffering from these symptoms, please ask for help from someone. Start with a friend or a doctor but do not suffer in silence. There are resources available.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville . View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page. He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.