New Formal Postpartum Depression Screening Procedure

By Linda Ong |

Published 06/12 2014 06:31PM

Updated 06/12 2014 06:35PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A new formal screening process for postpartum depression at Mercy Hospital in Springfield may help women with early detection.

Kim Crist thought giving birth to her daughter Kate would bring her endless joy.

"Probably within the first couple of days, I was having severe anxiety," said Crist. "Instead of getting sleep, I would sit awake, my mind would race."

Crist was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, or PPD, a long-lasting form of depression that affects a significant number of women after childbirth. PPD can create many challenges for new mothers as they try to adjust to parenthood and connect with their baby.

"I was not able to function," she said.

On her own, Crist got the treatment she needed-- medication, family support, and counseling.

But now new mothers with PPD won't have to face depression alone, thanks to a new formal screening at Mercy.

"We're trying to pick it up at the points where we think is the most sensitive to that disorder," said Cindy Whitten, Vice President of Women's Services at Mercy's Children's Hospital. "So two weeks, two months, four months, six months."

Doctors will test for signs of depression at these screening points. Those who are diagnosed as having PPD will then be evaluated and treated by a team that will include a pediatrician, OBGYN, nurses, family resources, and behavioral specialists.

"If we don't address that early on, that attachment with that baby will be impacted for years to come and will have an impact on the baby's development and their ability to form relationships," said Whitten.

According to Burrell Behavioral Health, one in every seven women in southwest Missouri experiences PPD after giving birth.

The depression develops when the symptoms of baby blues-- sadness and anxiety-- extend for several weeks. Oftentimes, mothers with PPD also feel growing disconnect with their baby.

"It's definitely a need in southwest Missouri for a formal screening process," said Shawna Baron, a psychologist at Burrell Behavioral Health. "Of course, doctors check woman's well being once they're discharged from the hospital after giving birth, but oftentimes they're not formally accessed by their OBGYN for another six weeks."

Baron said for those who do not access to Mercy, there are other resources currently out there.

"Your first line of defense is to talk to your doctor right away.  There are medications that can help and will be effective," said Baron. "Also, having a good support system, and talking to your spouse and family members, as well."

Baron said in some cases when mothers are checked by their OBGYN at the six week mark, it is too late for women whose depression has increased.

She added that many other hospitals in the region are also considering implementing a formal PPD screening procedure for mothers who give birth.

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