by Sharan Abdul-Rahman, MD
    on Feb 17th, 2015

She just had a baby. Both mom and baby are well.

Consider that even with normal uneventful births, it is estimated that 70% of women suffer from the "baby blues". About 10 -20% of women will develop postpartum depression after giving birth. This makes postpartum depression the most common postpartum complication.

The symptoms include despair, anxiety, hopelessness and an inability to secure a mother-infant bond. These symptoms usually develop within the first 1-3 weeks postpartum but can occur up to one year after giving birth. Children of women with postpartum depression can also be affected and suffer from sleep disturbances, poor growth rates or malnutrition.

Today screening for depression usually involves the mother completing a depression questionnaire either during her pregnancy or at her six week postpartum checkup. Ideally the next step is a visit with a psychiatrist to confirm the diagnosis. However with limited access to mental health care providers, some have recommended empiric treatment for any woman with a sufficiently high depression score. If a woman is not given a depression screening questionnaire, there is no reliable screening test.

The bad news is that postpartum depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated.

The good news is that preliminary studies done in 2013 at John Hopkins have suggested that there may be genetic predictors for postpartum depression.The blood test is reported to predict postpartum depression with a 85% accuracy. If this is confirmed, a woman could received testing in advance and receive appropriate treatment. We await the further studies. Until then women and their families must be proactive in seeking help if there is a concern.

Author Sharan Abdul-Rahman, MD

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