Many women experience postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA) after giving birth. Some of the risk factors associated with PPD or PPA include:
- Preexisting symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Family history of mental illness
- Lack of social support or feeling isolated
- Financial insecurity
- Lack of sleep
- Health issues in the newborn
- Traumatic pregnancy or childbirth
- Other negative life event around the time of the birth, such as the death of a loved one
We have previously discussed how behavioral health providers can help new moms with PPD, and looked at a few things that researchers have found may reduce risk. Here are three more things that could help women at risk of PPD or PPA.
- Consider prenatal counseling and education.
A woman doesn’t have to wait until she develops PPD to get counseling. Prenatal counseling could help pregnant women address preexisting risks, understand the causes of PPD, recognize the warning signs of PPD, and develop coping skills.
Prenatal education, even when it does not directly address PPD, also may help women feel more prepared for childbirth and parenting. This can increase confidence in their parenting abilities and help reduce anxiety.
- Help mom feel safe.
Feeling secure during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period has a huge impact on a woman’s anxiety levels. This can include security in her relationship with her partner, financial security, or, as researchers recently found, physical safety in her neighborhood.
In a study published in JAMA Network Open, researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found a link between perceived neighborhood safety and the use of prenatal care. Study participants who said they always or often felt unsafe in their neighborhood were more likely to attend fewer prenatal care visits compared with those who never felt unsafe. The same group also had 100 percent higher odds of perinatal depressive symptoms.
- Conduct thorough screening.
Despite how common PPD and PPA are, many women are not screened for these conditions before or after birth. Even when they are, the screening may consist of a single question, asked only once, without follow-up. This can lead to many PPD cases being overlooked, as women can develop PPD or PPA weeks or months after the baby is born. Additionally, women who develop PPD may be uncomfortable discussing their symptoms.
However, research shows that PPD screening is cost-effective and should be a regular part of postnatal care. Early, thorough PPD screening can help women get appropriate treatment sooner, which can improve their long-term health outcomes and reduce the risk of harm to the infant. Because PPD can arise anytime within the first year after birth, postpartum women should receive repeat screening from providers such as ob/gyns, pediatricians, primary care providers, social workers, and other clinicians.
Pregnancy is a challenging time, and new parents should not have to struggle alone. Behavioral health providers can learn about new research into PPD and PPA to help reduce risks and connect postpartum women to treatment and other resources that can help.
Tracking your client’s progress is crucial for making the right treatment decisions. BestNotes EHR solutions includes OutcomeTools, which delivers standard and customized outcome questionnaires to help you better track your clients’ treatment journey. These include PPD-related screening tools like the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Contact us today to learn more!