The policy team at PSI-Utah includes representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics. One thing we’re working hard on, and this comes from the AAP, are recommendations that at well-baby checks moms also are routinely screened for depression & anxiety and then referred to a qualified therapist or support group, and also given information about nutrition and sleep. I think the pediatrician’s office is the place because most moms do take their children to well-baby checks for at least the first year and often beyond. Whereas a woman might get a six-week obstetrician checkup, then no one sees her again, so the pediatricians are really the only medical eyes on mom.
The benefits of moms being screened by pediatricians beyond that traditional six-week OB postpartum visit are numerous. For one, the well-baby checkups are already on mom’s calendar; it’s not an extra appointment she has to schedule. Also, often symptoms haven’t presented or regulated by six weeks. The first six weeks are pretty rocky anyway, so it’s hard for mom or doctor to know by six weeks what is “normal” postpartum recovery and what are “abnormal” symptoms signaling a more serious postpartum illness. Pregnancy and becoming a mother is such a personal transition anyway, that oftentimes women don’t recognize for three, six, ten, eighteen months that they aren’t themselves. I advise women to pay attention to not feeling “right.” Listen to the intuition that says, “I don’t feel like myself. This is not me.” Instead of defaulting to believing it’s a character weakness, know that there is likely more going on physiologically that can be treated and can get better.
In nearly all cases, although women are at highest risk for emotional health concerns during their reproductive, child-bearing years, women also tend to respond to appropriate treatment far faster than at any other time of their lifespan. When you get the right combination of treatment—talk therapy, sleep, nutrition, social support, medication—women are much better within weeks, not even months. I expect women to have a turn around within a session or two of coming to me. In the vast majority of cases it is totally treatable, completely recoverable. Sometimes I see women who have experienced mild life-long depression or anxiety who, with treatment, feel better than before they had children.
People in general, we settle for not feeling well, and we don’t have to. And we aren’t making the world better for our daughters by not speaking up and expecting better treatment.