Imagine going to the doctor with your newborn baby because you are interested in receiving help for symptoms of depression only to be taken to the emergency room by the police. This is what happened to new mother Jessica Porten who had been experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression–previously known as postpartum depression–when she attempted to seek medical treatment. While this sounds like an overreaction in this situation, Dr. Darby Saxbe and Dr. Tiffany Moore Simas both agree that the healthcare provider was just attempting to protect the mother and the child by avoiding any harm. In any situation like this, Dr. Moore Simas, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Quantitative Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and co-chair of Maternal Mental Health Expert Work Group at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, explains that either way a physician will face scrutiny by overreacting or underreacting, so it is best to overreact when there are safety concerns. Yet, symptoms similar to Porten’s are common in new mothers, so why do these situations continue to happen?
Dr. Saxbe, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California, explains that one in seven women are affected by perinatal depression, with some populations being more highly affected. But, it still remains massively undertreated because of the stigmatization of mental illness. Dr. Saxbe states that many new moms feel it is wrong to not feel overjoyed by the birth of their child, so they do not feel comfortable seeking treatment. Furthermore, Dr. Moore Simas explains that the symptoms of perinatal depression are often times not associated with depression, but instead, they are attributed to being apart of pregnancy or postpartum.
While stigmatization and confusion of the symptoms do decrease the likelihood of diagnosing perinatal depression, there appears to be another problem with the lack of training given to OBGYN’s. Dr. Saxbe explains that they often have little to no training in psychiatry, and remain unqualified in properly screening and diagnosing perinatal depression. But, Dr. Moore Simas states, recently schooling to become an OBGYN has started to introduce mental health training as a component in order to improve the care provided to women experiencing perinatal depression. With increased knowledge on psychiatry and increased accessibility to psychiatric care, women with perinatal depression will be able to receive better treatment and many of these cases will no longer go undiagnosed.
- Jessica Porten, new mother diagnosed with depression
- Dr. Darby Saxbe, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California
- Dr. Tiffany Moore Simas, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Quantitative Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and co-chair of Maternal Mental Health Expert Work Group at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Links for more information:
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
- Click to Press This! (Opens in new window)