Who does it hit?

I was talking with an OBGYN the other day about who postpartum depression affects – women of any age, race, or income level. It says something elemental that postpartum depression is experienced worldwide. The doctor was saying how one of her friends had PPD and her friend had a beautiful house, family support, a wonderful and supportive husband, everything you could ask for. But was still hit by PPD.

There are risk factors for PPD and she didn’t have any of them, but it still settled on her. Yes, this happens sometimes. Some cases seem to be complete setups for PPD – a woman moves, has no support system, the baby is colicky, and her partner doesn’t help. Yep – PPD. Other cases just hit despite everything being in place to prevent it.

You can’t always predict it but you can recognize it and treat it. I see part of my role as a therapist and specialist in postpartum mood disorders as educating OBGYNs about recognizing it. I find it amazing that not more of them use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It raises the detection rate from 6.5% to 35%. Why? Because you can’t just look at someone and tell if they have postpartum depression and/or anxiety. A lot of moms go into the doctor’s and say, “everything is just fine, nothing’s wrong” when they’re really struggling inside. Many moms feel ashamed that they’re struggling and feel like they shouldn’t be.

What’s really striking to me also is that statistic means that we’re still missing detecting 65% of women who are suffering from PPD!

Those women don’t even make it to the OB’s office to be screened, if the OB is screening at all. Or it’s hitting some of those women later, far after OB visits are done. I believe that pediatricians should be screening regularly for postpartum depression. Moms will take their babies to well-baby visits even when they’re barely making it out of bed. Moms will take their babies in even if they themselves really need to go to their own doctor but just can’t make it there. Most moms put their babies first, before pretty much anything else including themselves.

Just ask any mom how long she can hold off on going to the bathroom in order to not wake the baby that fell asleep on them. Moms have superhuman powers (and, yes, holding pee is one of them). My point is that they will attend to a baby’s needs far before they’ll attend to their own. So catch the moms doing just that but still struggling with their own depressions. Catch them at the OB’s office, the midwife’s office, and finally the pediatrician’s office. Catch them whereever you can so that somebody recognizes what’s going on with them and extends a hand to help.

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