Stigmas attached to postpartum depression make it difficult for many women to ask for help. During routine office visits, physicians can make critical inroads by starting conversations about maternal mental health.
During the early postpartum perioud, 70 to 80 percent of women experience sadness, fatigue, low moods or minor anxiety, according to the American Pregnancy Association. These mood changes, commonly known as the “baby blues,” typically resolves without treatment. For the one woman in seven who develops postpartum depression, however, symptoms persist and may affect her ability to care for herself and her child, according to the American Psychological Association.
Depending on the severity of a woman's symptoms, she may need outpatient treatment, which may include a combination of therapy and medication, or more intensive inpatient care. From outpatient services to partial hospitalization and inpatient programs, Northwell Health offers the full continuum of care for new and expecting mothers' mental health needs.
Media stories about women who have harmed their children have negatively influenced public perception about postpartum depression, according to Tina Walch, MD, medical director of South Oaks Hospital. However, public perception isn’t the only barrier.
Identifying the Appropriate Level of Care
To diagnose perinatal psychiatric disorders, psychiatrists may use one of several assessments, including the Patient Health Questionnaire-2, Patient Health Questionnaire-9 or the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. These rating scales help identify women experiencing:
- Anxiety and/or inability to cope
- Feeling of being scared or overwhelmed
- Frequent crying spells and overall unhappiness; and/or
- Suicial thought.
Outpatient therapy, alone or in combination with medications, is typically successful in resolving symptoms. South Oaks and Zucker Hillside Hospital offer a rnage of outpatient services, including medication management, individual and group therapy, supportive therapy for fathers and partners, and parent/child coaching.
New Initiatives, Higher Levels of Care
This March, Zucker Hillside officially opened its new Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Program, located on the hospital’s 20-bed Women’s Unit.