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Catching the Early Signs of Postpartum Depression: New Mothers Screened for PPD in Hospital

It’s only been the last few years that postpartum depression has been the focus of national dialogues, with celebrities like Brooke Shields, Amanda Peet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox, and others all going public with their stories. The once-stigmatized illness is becoming better understood, and — thanks to a new program in one Kentucky hospital — new mothers are being given the tools they need to catch the early signs of PPD.

After the jump, see how a team of doctors, nurses, and researchers plan to help new mothers in the battle against postpartum depression.

What’s happening in Kentucky can be used as a way to combat postpartum depression at its earliest signs, and it sends a very clear message: There is help available for postpartum depression and you don’t have to be ashamed.

Postpartum depression affects 13 percent of new mothers within the first year after childbirth, but I guess those numbers to be quite a bit higher since, according to information released by the University of Louisville, “few women recognize the symptoms and seldom discuss their feelings with a health care provider.” It would be hard for me to know I’m suffering from something if I don’t know what the symptoms are, just as it would be equally hard for my doctor to diagnose me if I wasn’t sharing my symptoms with her. So while the reported total of women suffering from PPD holds at 13 percent, it’s easy to believe the number of new mothers who have this often-silent illness is much greater.

This is where the team in Kentucky steps in. Headed by Cynthia Logsdon, the diverse team of medical and research professionals found that most hospitals lack proper perinatal care for new mothers. The new guidelines created by her team focus on providing nurses with the know-how to recognize and talk about PPD with new mothers during the time they are in the hospital after birth, arming these nurses with the information and tools they need to be strong patient educators and helping shine light on the no-need-to-be-ashamed-about-it postpartum depression.

The perinatal nurses in the Kentucky hospital now assess certain risk factors upon the admission of to-be moms in order to notify the doctor of whether the patient is at risk for PPD. Such risk factors include “low-income, lack of social support, and previous history of depression.” New mothers complete a questionnaire before they leave the hospital that calculates their risk for PPD. The results of which are shared with the doctor, social worker, and shift nurses — and with the new moms, who are given a packet of information about depression, its symptoms, and community-resource numbers to take home with them. They’re also given the same questionnaire and are asked to complete in the following week to see if PPD symptoms begin to appear.

What’s happening in Kentucky can be used as a way to combat postpartum depression at its earliest signs. Talking to new mothers within the first few days about PPD and what to do if they experience depressive thoughts, can go a long way by opening the door for new moms who might otherwise not recognize their symptoms for what they are or who perhaps wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to their doctors about PPD. Getting the dialogue started while these new moms are still in the hospital and providing them with helpful resources sends a very clear message: There is help available for postpartum depression and you don’t have to be ashamed.

Did anyone talk to you about PPD while you were in the hospital? Are you hoping someone will talk to you about it after you give birth while you’re still in the hospital? Do you think all hospitals should adopt some type of preventative-PPD measure? What related stories do you have to share?

SOURCE: University of Louisville

A PDF of The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing’s full article can be accessed here.

Photo: Alyssa L. Miller

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