Depression Screening Urged for New Mothers


Postpartum depression can be devastating for new mothers but experts are now realizing the effect it can have on the newborns. A group of experts now says it's up to pediatricians to look for signs of the condition.

When Molly Peryer gave birth to her son Henry five years ago - it wasn't the joyous moment she expected. The new mom had feelings of regret and guilt- she suffered from post partum depression.

"I was really anxious. I thought I had made a terrible mistake thinking that I could become a mother," she says.

An estimated 1 out 4 mothers suffers from depression after giving birth. And the condition is not only damaging for the mother- research shows it can also harm an infant's development.

"The babies aren't as interactive, they're not as verbal, they can grow up to be depressed."

Usually, the mother's doctor detects postpartum depression. But experts now say the baby's doctor should also be evaluating the mother's emotional condition.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that pediatricians start screening new moms for depression.
Doctor Steven Ajl looks to see if a mother is affectionate toward her baby.

"Watch out for the ones who are not happy about a new baby, watch out for ones who are not eating or sleeping. Don"t be afraid to ask how they're doing," says Ajl.

The Academy urges pediatricians to recommend counseling if the mother seems depressed .

Peryer thinks that's a good first line of defense.

"Pediatricians are in a unique position to screen for post partum depression because they see mom so frequently."

Peryer went to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with postpartum depression. She started her own support group to help other moms struggling with the condition.

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