The most common complication of pregnancy is under-diagnosed and under treated. “Just under 4 million women will give birth in the United States this year (2017).* Of that number of new mothers, nearly 20 percent, will experience some degree of postpartum depression. “This depression is the most common complication of pregnancy. Yet many new mothers go undiagnosed and untreated,” according to Linda Sebastian, advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), and author of Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, Third Edition, Addicus Books, January 2017.
Ms. Sebastian has treated thousands of women with postpartum depression for the past thirty years. “These new mothers are devastated by their unexpected mood changes after delivery. And because they’re unaware of postpartum disorders, they typically feel alone and ashamed. They think they are bad mothers, and they often try to hide their symptoms,” Sebastian said. She also explains that, at the same time, many health care professionals are not keenly aware of postpartum disorders and fail to screen new mothers for it.
Many new mothers suffering from postpartum disorders have never had any contactwith the mental health system, creating another roadblock for them in seeking help, according to Sebastian. “These women get lost in the ‘gaps’ of the health care system. I hope these women, and the general public, will become aware that help is available.”
Ms. Sebastian frequently speaks to women’s groups and health professionals across the country. “Fortunately, there is growing awareness about postpartum disorders among the medical community. Historically, health professionals have not been trained to recognize postpartum disorders, but that is changing.”
10 Things to Know about
Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
Postpartum depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth-more common than hemorrhage and infection.
Even though mood changes after giving birth have been known since the time of Hippocrates, most women and many health professionals don’t realize that depression and anxiety are a significant risk. Nearly 20 percent of new mothers will have some degree of depression and/or anxiety.
Risk factors often predict postpartum depression. Factors may include previous depression or anxiety, major stressors, a mother’s concern for her health and her baby’s, premature birth, lack of emotional support at home, and a mother’s childhood emotional abuse or trauma.
The symptoms of depression and anxiety have a biological basis and notrelated to the level of mother’s ability to love her baby.
Anxiety after delivery is more common than depression.
It is important to recognize and treat women who are depressed after delivery; otherwise a baby’s development can be affected by a mother’s depression.
There is a commonly used screening tool that all maternal-child health care providers can use to detect depression -the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.
It is possible for anxiety and depression to start during pregnancy.
New fathers can have depression after delivery, too. Most clinicians will ask a new fathers to join a treatment session if his wife is being treated for depression or anxiety.
The good news is: most women respond quickly to treatment and will feel better within a few weeks.
Linda Sebastian, an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) has specialized in women’s mental health concerns, especially for pregnant and postpartum women for the past thirty years. She is in private practice in Fort Myers, Florida. As former director of the Women’s Program at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, Ms. Sebastian was instrumental in developing the perinatal psychiatric disorders program and educated many health professionals about postpartum depression and anxiety. The Women’s Program at Menninger was recognized nationally several times for its treatment of depression in women. Ms. Sebastian received a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from Kansas University. She graduated from Wesley School of Nursing in Wichita, Kansas. She is the author of numerous professional journal articles, and has been a featured speaker at conferences in the United States and China.