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Postpartum Depression Health Center

First-Time Mom: Higher Depression Risk

Postpartum Depression Risk Is Highest in Baby's First Month
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Routine Screening Needed continued...

The findings should serve as a wake-up call to public health officials in the U.S. who have largely ignored postpartum depression in the past, says a University of Pittsburgh postpartum researcher who co-wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

"Knowing what we do about the risks of postpartum depression, we must recognize our responsibility to address this illness through improved research and greater access to care and services," Katherine L. Wisner, MD, MS, says in a news release from the University of Pittsburgh.

Wisner and colleagues Dorothy K.Y. Sit, MD, and Christina Chambers PhD, MPH, called for the implementation of universal postpartum mental health screening, to be conducted between two and 12 weeks after childbirth.

Rapid Treatment

They also called for the rapid treatment of women with postpartum depression, which can benefit the new mom, her baby, and the entire family.

"Any form of screening program has to be combined with effective treatments," Sit tells WebMD. "Physicians, providers, and patients need to be informed about the different treatment options and the importance of providing treatment quickly."

Mothers-to-be should be made aware of the risks and the symptoms of postpartum depression, Sit says. Some symptoms -- such as poor concentration, extreme tiredness, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite -- are common among new parents, even if they aren't depressed.

But other symptoms -- such as persistent anxiety or irrational fears, recurrent thoughts of dying or preoccupation with death, and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby -- should never be ignored.

"Maternal depression exacts a heavy toll on women and the health and well-being of their children," Sits and colleagues wrote.

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