Physician’s Visit Prompts Developing Tool for Family and Providers, “What to Ask If You Suspect PPD”

A routine visit to my doctor turned into a need to develop a list of questions that family or providers can use to help identify symptoms of PPD.

When my new physician casually asked my career, I doubt he was expecting an answer that hit so close to home. “A therapist specializing in Postpartum Depression?” he repeated. Then, he told me how he had “diagnosed” his own wife’s disclosure that she was “feeling depressed” after the birth of their baby.

“To rule out PPD, I asked her, ‘do you plan to hurt yourself or the baby?'” the doctor said, likely proud of his attempt to assist his wife. He continued, “When she said ‘no,’ then I told her she didn’t have postpartum depression and she was fine.”

To say I was dismayed and upset at this medical professional’s casual assessment of a serious condition is an understatement. How could he assume that this one answer was sufficient to diagnose postpartum depression?

I restrained myself as I tried to calmly educate him on the range of symptoms that can be an indication of a perinatal mood disorder. However, this interchange made me realize there are likely many others who believe this simple “no” response is enough to rule out PPD. So, here is my list of questions that could’ve helped the doctor learn if his wife is indeed okay, or requires a referral to a mental health specialist in perinatal disorders.

If you believe your spouse, partner, friend or relative might have PPD, please ask her:

1. How is she feeling?
2. Does she feel ‘not like herself’ to a degree that concerns her?
3. Does she often feel anxious, irritable, angry or depressed?
4. Can she experience joy or pleasure?
6. Does she have any panic or anxiety attacks?
7. Is there any loss of appetite?
8. Does she feel hopeless? Inadequate? Overwhelmed?
9. Does she have any repetitive distressing, gruesome, or upsetting thoughts?

If in doubt, have her call her physician or a mental health specialist. And remember, an answer to just one of these questions isn’t enough to “diagnose” or to stifle the conversation. Encourage her to talk about what she is experiencing and let her know that you care about her and want to help.

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~ by ppdsus on July 11, 2014.

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