The way we (don’t) talk about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders is so unfair to women experiencing them.
Generally speaking, we take a hands-off approach, not talking about these issues even though they are the MOST COMMON complication of pregnancy and childbirth. A woman will see a healthcare provider on average 30 times during a routine pregnancy and first year of baby’s life, yet NO ONE is required to educate her about these illnesses, or screen for them, or connect her with help.
So here’s what happens: we wait until a women falls into the abyss of anxiety or depression. And then we expect her to recognize that she needs help, ask for help, and persevere until she finds help.
We need to turn this entire process around.
Women need to be educated about PMADs and screened for them routinely during pregnancy and throughout the first year after being pregnant, be connected with resources for recovery, and have accessible, affordable, appropriate care. Obstetric providers should tell their pregnant patients that anxiety and depression are very common during and after pregnancy, that they will be screened for these illnesses routinely, and that resources are available for recovery.
Hospital nursing staff should screen women at time of delivery. Pediatricians should screen women at all well-baby checks because we know that while a new mother might skip her obstetric postpartum visits she will NEVER skip her baby’s doctor’s appointments.
I’ve heard time and again that these providers don’t receive any training about PMADs, that they aren’t reimbursed for screening, and they don’t know where to send women for help. It’s time to change this dynamic.
Waiting for a new mom to raise her hand and ask for help is adding insult to injury. We cannot expect her to navigate the complex mental health industry when is at her most vulnerable. Everyone who interacts with childbearing women should ask new/pregnant mothers, “How are YOU doing?” If she is having trouble, let her know that she is not alone, that this it not her fault, and that she will recover with help. And connect her with PSVa. We will set her on the path to recovery