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UNC Study: New Mothers Not Screened for Depression

Posted May 31, 2007

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— A new study suggests a majority of doctors are not probing new mothers for signs of postpartum depression.

Of the 228 physicians responding to the survey who said they had seen women for postpartum visits in the previous three months, 79 percent said they were unlikely to formally screen the patients for depression.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include extreme fatigue, loss of pleasure in daily life, sleeplessness, sadness, tearfulness, anxiety, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, irritability, appetite change and poor concentration.

"We believe that it is very important that physicians work some type of depression screening into postpartum visits," said Betsy Sleath, lead author of the study and a professor in UNC's School of Pharmacy. "Perhaps even more important, women shouldn't be afraid or embarrassed to raise this issue with their doctor. We're expected by society to be happy when we have a child so sometimes it's hard to talk about the fact that women feel sad, or that it's hard being a new mother."

Physicians and other health care professionals use a variety of tools such as a patient health questionnaire and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to determine a woman's risk of postpartum depression.

Dr. Bradley Gaynes, one of the study's co-authors and a psychiatrist with UNC Health Care, said checking for signs of depression can be as simple as asking a new mother two questions:

  • Has your interest in your usual activities changed?
  • Do you feel depressed or hopeless?


"We recognize that physicians must cope with many demands on their time," Gaynes said. "But depression is one of the most common postpartum complications, and a postpartum depression needs to be identified before it can be treated. We encourage clinicians to always check for signs of depression during postpartum visits. These questions represent the core symptoms of a major depressive disorder."

An estimated 13 percent of new mothers are affected by postpartum depression. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will be published June 6 in the North Carolina Medical Journal.

6 Comments

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  • doinbizzness Jun 2, 2007

    Lets put some more depressed women on some more antidepressants and really watch them go crazy...... not good....it is just like hyper active kids "which is how we were labled as children" now they are called A.D.H.D. and givin' dope and turned into zombies. so everytime a new mother tells a doctor she is feeling depressed she will be diagnosed as having post partum depression and givin some dope......pretty soon the men of the house will need to start drinking because the wife and kids have all the good dope and he is labeled a substance abuser.

  • Bleu Jun 2, 2007

    Doctors & closely associated healthcare professionals do not care! I reached out numerous times following delivery of my 2nd child. My post pardom concerns were plainly ignored during my post delivery recovery. Bleu

  • At Work Jun 1, 2007

    The doctors dont care, when I had my little girl a year ago I bleeded for 8 months straight went to doctor, hospital etc. and nothing. Im no med student but what they say is normal I knew was not. So I changed doctor and by that time was anemic but the new doctor fixed everything. It just showed me that they dont read the records and they are to buzy to care!!

  • 6strings Jun 1, 2007

    I wonder what Tom Cruise thinks. Sorry, couldn't resist. I'm not making light of this very serious issue. It should be given much more attention.

  • jenstog May 31, 2007

    I agree- should of been brought up a long time ago.

  • anastasia May 31, 2007

    It's very sad to see this still happening. With all the stories we see on TV of mothers killing their babies/children, it would seem this *should be* a very important part of post partum check-ups.