In a step to reduce the incidence of postpartum depression in the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) says it will provide new mums with one-to-one care from a midwife during labor and increase support services to women who’ve had a miscarriage or stillbirth. The midwives will be given additional specific training to help them identity women at risk for depression and other postpartum mood disorders.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives told The Guardian that these pledges are “very good news” for both women and midwives: “These are positive plans from the government targeting areas of maternity care that are under-prioritised and under-resourced… The impact of a miscarriage or a stillbirth can be devastating for the woman and her family and postnatal depression can be a crippling and sometimes fatal illness. Early detection and treatment is crucial.”
It is thought that between 15-20% of all mothers suffer with a postpartum mood disorder such as OCD, anxiety or depression. There are many causes of these conditions, which fall along a spectrum in terms of severity from mild to life-threatening: It can be a hormonal trigger, a lack of concrete support, a history of depression or anxiety that is exacerbated by the strains of sleep deprivation or other challenges of early motherhood. While several celebrities have spoken up about postpartum depression, the nuances of these conditions are still largely misunderstood or considered taboo.
The good news is that postpartum depression absolutely can be treated. Depending on the underlying reasons for the anxiety or depression, treatments could include therapy, peer or concrete support, sleep or medication.
Yesterday while attending a conference on postpartum mood disorders, I learned that suicide is the leading cause of death in new mothers. Also, serious depression can have lasting consequences for the family and yet in the UK and the US, mental health is not considered a priority.
One thing that can be invaluable to expectant and new mothers is continuity of care. This model in the UK seems to be striving for that. Midwives would be able to screen for postpartum issues during pregnancy and check up after the birth as well.
If you’d like to know more about postnatal mood disorders check out the most comprehensive and acclaimed website on the topic, Postpartum Progress.
If you’re in the USA and are looking for a therapist with expertise in postpartum mood disorders you can look at MedEdPPD.
Photo: Spatial Mongrel/Flickr