“You must be so happy.”
It is a heartfelt expression of joy that is commonly uttered to a new mother. But imagine how it might sound to a woman who is silently suffering following the birth of a child, feeling frightened or anxious or puzzled or overwhelmed. You must be so happy, or there’s something wrong with you.
Experts estimate that as many as 1 in 7 women suffers postpartum depression, even though it far too often is dismissed as “the blues,” a mere mood rather than the debilitating illness it is.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, takes the topic of depression seriously. The panel has renewed its call for widespread screening for depression among adults, and for the first time it specifically recommended evaluations for pregnant women and new mothers. This is a necessary and welcome component of women’s health care.
The panel said any medical practice can screen a patient using a simple, 10-question survey that asks patients to check descriptions that best describe their feelings. If treatment is necessary, it can be as varied as the patients, although the report noted that cognitive behavioral therapy was helpful but that some antidepressants can be harmful to the child.
Depression is an illness as real as a broken leg or infection. Simply waiting in the hope that symptoms will subside is dangerous. This knowledgeable panel of experts has provided a green light for doctors to broach the topic with their patients.
From an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette