Diagnosis & Screening


Consult a medical professional for a full diagnosis.  Talk to an obstetrical provider (OB/GYN, nurse/midwife), general practitioner, or a psychiatrist.  These medical professionals can rule out underlying medical conditions, such as a thyroid imbalance and anemia, which are fairly common in the perinatal period (during pregnancy or the first year postpartum) and can contribute to feelings of depression and/or anxiety. 


Health professionals may use screening tools to assess whether a woman is experiencing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD):

Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)

These are short questionnaires that help assess how a mother is feeling.  Health care providers may use these types of screening tools because they provide an opportunity for a new mother to think about herself and an opportunity to talk about emotional distress.

How are these tools used?  Some hospitals and birthing centers use these tools to screen new mothers before they are discharged.  Obstetricians may use these screening tools during pregnancy or at the postpartum check-up.  Pediatricians are encouraged to use these tools to open a discussion with new mothers about how they are feeling.  Mental health professionals may use these questionnaires when diagnosing and treating patients.

PSVa ENCOURAGES health care providers to administer the screening in the clinical setting, then score and discuss the results prior to the woman leaving the healthcare setting.


The most successful treatment plan for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) may include:

  • A complete medication examination (some medical conditions, such as a thyroid imbalance and anemia, are fairly common in the postpartum period and can contribute to feelings of depression and lethargy)
  • A psychiatric evaluation
  • Self-help techniques
  • Participation in a support group
  • Talk therapy with a psychologist or counselor
  • Medication and/or hospitalization when necessary

Postpartum Support Virginia has summarized these treatment options in the Path to Wellness.


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