“Dr. Lightman:  I’ve brought in my baby for his 2-month well visit and you’re asking me to complete a survey about me.  Why am I on the radar screen for today’s visit?”

Mothers – We care about you.  We love you.  You are the mainstay of our lives and homes.  And we know that what you do requires physical, mental and emotional energies at the highest levels.  We want to make sure that you are in the best shape to do your important work.  Allow me to explain.

In addition to taking care of your baby’s well visits (of which there are several) during the first year of life, we pediatricians are now responsible for making sure that mothers are also healthy.  That’s why it’s now mandated that mothers are screened for postpartum depression during the baby’s first 12 months of life.

What’s galvanized my colleagues and me to action is that postpartum depression is more common than once previously believed.  In fact, it’s one of the most common medical complications of childbearing.  Some professionals believe that depression, which affects one in seven women, may begin during pregnancy.  An independent study conducted by influential health policy decision makers states that treating depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period yields excellent results.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that clinicians screen patients at least once during the perinatal period for depression and anxiety symptoms.

Hence, it’s important to identify Moms who may be suffering from depression or may be at risk and to offer interventions.

How does the pediatrician become involved in postpartum depression and anxiety screenings?

Classically, the obstetrician discharges a woman from her pregnancy six weeks after giving birth.  The pediatrician, a warm, involved “partner,” especially during the baby’s first year of life, interacts with the mother (and other caregivers) as she usually brings the baby to the office for well visits.  It’s an optimal time to ask Mom complete the 10-question Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) which is a valuable and efficient way of identifying patients at risk for postpartum depression.  The EPDS is easy to administer and has been proven to be an effective screening tool.  The pediatrician can then refer Mom to the appropriate behavioral resources.

As the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, then no one is happy.”  Let’s work together to make sure mothers are happy and healthy.  To children and us all, mothers are the world.


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