Screening for Postpartum Depression

This year, National Depression Screening Day will be observed on October 5th. Mental Illness Awareness Week also receives national attention during the first week in October. With these observances, the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey’s Postpartum Depression (PPD) Program joins the fight to destigmatize mental health disorders.

Health screenings… we’ve all heard about them, right?

You’re probably aware of screenings for illnesses such as breast, colon and skin cancer, but did you know that there is also a screening for depression? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Most Americans are unaware that although depressive disorders are common, they often go unrecognized. In fact, 16 million American adults- more than one in twenty- live with major depression. Depression is among the leading causes of disability for those 15 years of age and older. It is a public health issue often overlooked, because of the stigma associated with mental illness and treatment.

In an effort to increase awareness of depression screenings, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, launched Mental Illness Awareness Week, the first week of October to highlight the importance of recognizing symptoms of mental illness. Piggybacking on this week-long event, Screening for Mental Health, Inc. initiated National Depression Screening Day in hopes of reaching individuals across the nation with important mental health education and assistance connecting to support services.

Since the Partnership focuses on the health and well-being of pregnant women, new mothers and their children, we thought we’d share some information regarding how depression affects women during pregnancy and after birth. Did you know?

  • Depression is twice as common in women as in men.
  • The highest rates of depression occur during the reproductive and menopausal years.
  • One out of seven women experiences postpartum depression (PPD).

Many people don’t realize that PPD is the number one complication of childbirth and a large percentage of women don’t end up getting help. A study published in 2012 in the Journal of Women’s Health revealed that more than half of pregnant (65.9%) and non-pregnant women (58.6%) who were experiencing depression went undiagnosed, underscoring the need for more efficient and accurate screening! In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend screening mothers for depressive symptoms at least once during pregnancy, again at the postpartum visit and then during the well child visits at 1, 2, 4 and 6 months.

New Jersey leads the nation when it comes to screening for PPD. In 2006, our state enacted a law that requires healthcare providers to educate women about postpartum depression during their pregnancy and after they deliver. The law also requires hospitals to screen all women for postpartum depression prior to discharge from the hospital after their delivery. This screening, also recommended at the first few postnatal checkup visits, is conducted using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is a self-administered tool and determines whether you are at risk for PPD.

Why is it important for you to get screened for PPD? Depression after childbirth is very common, and can be debilitating for some women. PPD may even have adverse consequences for maternal -infant bonding and infant development. Therefore, if you are or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, consider contacting your healthcare provider to discuss the appropriate steps necessary to get better:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear of not being a good mother
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment for PPD is very individualized so it is important to speak with your provider about the best options for you. Possibilities could include a support group, therapy provided by a perinatal mental health specialist and/or medication. If you would like more information, the Partnership’s PPD Perinatal Mental Health Coordinators are available to provide education and information about local resources for PPD. You can reach our team at 973-268-2280 x 155.

If you are pregnant or have given birth within the last year, ask your healthcare provider about getting screened for PPD.

Know that you are NOT alone, it is NOT your fault, and that help is
available, please speak up!

For more information and resources on PPD, please visit:
Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey – Postpartum Depression Program 
New Jersey Department of Health – Mental Health Concerns for New Parents

Getting Involved