Early Recognition Of Symptoms During Pregnancy Equals Better Outcomes

In my practice offering therapy for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD), women who are experiencing significant anxiety or depression during their pregnancy or after the birth of their babies, I am always left with the question: Could this have been diagnosed earlier and would this result in quicker recovery?

For example, if during pregnancy the OB/GYN had used screening advocated by the American Psychological Association, perhaps the most serious affects of PMAD could be avoided, or at least ameliorated. By adding just two depression-screening questions to the physician’s check-in forms, the medical team and patient could have had a head start in dealing with this potentially debilitating illness.

I have found that if we treat these symptoms during pregnancy, my patient and I are often able to lessen or eliminate symptoms and then have an opportunity to set up a postpartum plan, which can be very effective in decreasing the likelihood of a postpartum depression. Although I can’t guarantee it will prevent the illness in every case, it certainly seems to make a difference.

A recent article confirms my belief. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates one in seven women experience depression during pregnancy or within 12 months of delivery. Hormones, stress, infertility, isolation and previous experiences with depression or anxiety can jumpstart PMAD.

Although many women report a range of mental health issues while pregnant — from suicidal thoughts to unrelenting unhappiness, less than 20 percent report these symptoms to others. Far too often, their medical team, partner, family members, and friends are left in the dark.

“Cultural expectations” that pregnancy and having a child will be the most significant and happy occurrence, leading to a lifetime of bliss, can contribute to feelings of guilt and shame when hopelessness trumps happiness.

And if the pregnancy is unplanned, such as with teen pregnancy or even later in life, this may add another layer of stress and panic.

What I’ve found to be the most effective in helping women navigate depression and severe anxiety during pregnancy and after the birth of their child, is to get into treatment early with a mental health professional specializing in perinatal issues.

It is also essential that they have a good support network, by sharing with partners, friends and family, and perhaps participating in a support group. The combination of therapy, supportive relationships, and sometimes medication, will help reduce the severity of symptoms and lead to a better long-term outcome for mother and baby.

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~ by ppdsus on September 24, 2015.

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