Most mothers experience the “baby blues” after childbirth (estimates range from 50-80% of mothers), with symptoms that can include crying, mood swings, and irritability. These symptoms typically appear within a few days after childbirth, last up to 2 weeks and do not interfere with everyday functioning. If symptoms last beyond 2-3 weeks, become worse, or interfere with everyday living, it may be a sign of a bigger problem that should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
What is Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder?
The term Perinatal or Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) covers the spectrum of more severe mood changes that affects 12-15% of women during pregnancy and in the first year after a child is born. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 10% of fathers also experience mood changes during this time. It is important to know that perinatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are treatable.
How can my child’s pediatrician help?
Pediatricians have the unique opportunity to connect with families at multiple visits in the first year of a child’s life. A family-centered approach to care led general pediatricians at Pediatrics Northwest to start screening caregivers for postpartum mood changes in June 2020, following guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics. We recognize the importance of screening for perinatal and postpartum mood disorders since untreated depression and anxiety may affect the entire family and the child’s development.
A 10-question screening called the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) is offered to caregivers at every well child visit for ages 1, 2, 4, and 6 months. Results are reviewed with the caregiver during their pediatric well child visit. This screening can help us connect caregivers with relevant community resources that may be helpful to them after the many changes that occur with the birth of a child. The caregiver is given the option of having the EPDS results included in the infant’s chart at each well child visit.
How are the screening results used?
If the EPDS screening result identifies that a perinatal or postpartum mood concern is present, we will recommend follow-up with the caregiver’s own trusted medical provider to discuss the screening results further.
We will also offer information about local resources that can help, such as:
Perinatal Support Washington
Perinatal Support Washington is a resource that offers a “warm line” that parents or concerned caregivers can call to speak with other parents or professionals. They also offer virtual and in-person support groups in multiple counties in Washington State. A 260% increase in phone calls to the parent support line in 2021 was reported this year, which emphasizes the importance of screening. Perinatal Support Washington can be contacted at 1-888-404-7763 (call or text). Additional information can be found at perinatalsupport.org.
Help Me Grow
A referral to Help Me Grow can provide a connection point to information and resources in the community for families with children from birth to age 5. If a family chooses a referral to Help Me Grow, a Family Resource Coordinator will contact the family to discuss community resources that include postpartum mood support, lactation support, or other needs the family may have.
Since the start of perinatal and postpartum mood disorder screening at Pediatrics Northwest over 18 months ago, we have had the privilege to hear caregivers’ experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, we have completed over 7,700 screens which has given us valuable insight into the challenges our families face. With the information gathered, pediatricians from Pediatrics Northwest meet monthly with the Help Me Grow Health Provider Outreach group in Pierce County to work together to continue to improve our connections to local resources for young families.
The first year after a child is born can be an exciting but challenging time for many families. It is well recognized that caregivers have an increased risk of experiencing mood changes, including anxiety and depression, during pregnancy and in the first year after a child is born. Pediatricians have a unique opportunity to develop relationships with families because of the frequency of visits in the first year of life. The EPDS screening completed at the pediatric office can identify when resources for additional support may be helpful to promote healthy families and child development.
We thank you for your participation in this screening and welcome your feedback. Your providers and the staff at Pediatrics Northwest strive to provide outstanding care and support for the development of your child. We are honored that you have placed your trust in us and look forward to our journey in health together.