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28 Jul 2016

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) some time ago announced all new screening suggestions and guidelines which urge pediatricians to screen fathers and mothers for anxiety and depression during the first year of their infant's life. 

Clinical depression is amongst the most prevalent and debilitating mental health conditions in the U.S., it is twice as likely to have an effect on females as males, not to mention suicide is the second most prevalent reason for death for postpartum mothers.

Around 20% of new mothers deal with some type of depression or anxiety at some point during their baby's infancy. Yet unfortunately, depression is quite often undiscovered by a woman's primary healthcare provider and even by her obstetrician, since they generally don't consult with the new mom anywhere near as frequently as she meets with her child's pediatrician.

This may be one of the main reasons that the AAP has come forth with their most recent screening guidelines…

By employing regular screening, a perinatal or pediatric medical care specialist can have the chance to diagnose signs of a mother's depression that primary physicians very often don't have.

Why Screening for Parent Depression Is Incredibly Useful

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has been endorsing the psychosocial testing of pregnant and postpartum females for some time.

The fact is, the ACOG suggests mothers-to-be be screened once in every trimester by using a quick list of questions, with additional testing and treatment instructions subject to the outcome of the original assessment.

Not only is this necessary for the sake of the new mother - since depression is easier to handle when detected in early stages - but it is just as vitally essential for the health and well-being of the daughter or son and the family as a whole.

Many scientific studies, such as the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, have indicated an overwhelming link between the emotional health of caregivers and that of their young children.

A mother's depression can lead to grave problems for her children…

Women are normally a child's predominant caregivers and a child's predominant method of acquiring interpersonal, psychological, and intellectual development and communication in their initial years of life.

Unfortunately, women suffering from postpartum depression, or any other psychological disorder, are almost always less likely to exhibit love to their infants, less inclined to reply to infant cues, and predisposed to be withdrawn, irritable, as well as even aggressive towards their kids.

To put it briefly, new mothers going through depression routinely have a lot less energy to implement positive child-rearing habits (such as reading with their kids and minimizing television) and suffer a great deal more unhealthy interactions with young children (from quarrelling to being emotionally remote or unavailable).

Just like the ACE study has demonstrated, in the long term, children brought up in a home with a depressed parent tend to suffer from behavioral problems and depression of their very own, such as cognitive and learning delays, tantrums, hyperactivity, eating and sleep troubles, and various other psychological and socialization difficulties.

That's what the AAP's recent guidelines and recommendations are all about… Helping caregivers improve the bond between themselves and their daughters and sons in addition to making certain mothers, as well as their newborns, get the very best start they can.

Things to Look For…

Perinatal mood disorders such as postpartum depression may be characterized by many of the very same characteristics as for clinical anxiety and depression. On the other hand, perinatal mood disorders almost always develop and continue from any time over the course of the pregnancy through childbirth and as much as a full year or more after delivery.

Regrettably, perinatal mood disorders don't affect every mother at the exact same time or in exactly the same way, which means there is not a specific checklist that you can use when trying to make a diagnosis. Having said that, all of the signs and symptoms may be equally disturbing and typically make the mother feel ashamed, cut off, and guilt ridden.

Mothers struggling with postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders can have any number of these symptoms, which vary from mild to extreme:

• Lack or diminishment of passion and fulfillment in pursuits, everyday tasks, and living in general
• Sensations of ineffectiveness and shame
• Drastic swings in as well as lack of appetite
• Inexplicable weight reduction or gain in weight
• Lower stamina and enthusiasm, resting considerably more than normal, and intense fatigue
• Excessive sobbing or tearfulness
• Trouble going to sleep or staying asleep (even when the newborn is sleeping)
• Mood shifts
• Being exceedingly worried about the infant
• Loss of concern for the infant
• Frustration, uneasiness, and/or anxiety and panic
• Frequent perspiration, headaches, queasiness, racing heartbeats, and other physiological manifestations related to fear and anxiety
• Anxiety-based abdominal pain or chest pain
• Anxiety about harming one's self and/or the infant
• Problems focusing, confusion, and/or forgetfulness
• Sustained reduction in sexual interests
• Harmful and/or frightening thoughts
• Thinking the infant will be better off not having the mother
• Wishing for someone to just take the baby away, in some circumstances to the point of even calling child protection providers
• Hopelessness and despair

Although not all of the above signs or symptoms will be tested for by your perinatal health practitioner or your daughter's or son's pediatrician, they are warning signs to remember.

What's more, considering that anxiety has an extremely significant part in perinatal mood disorders, particular focus needs to be given to panic and anxiety attacks and certain fears, like lying awake through the night awaiting some sort of "shadowy threat", invasive thoughts concerning doing harm to the baby, continuing to keep all the window blinds closed ALL the time resulting from beliefs and feelings that someone is spying, and/or starting to be overly worried about the child's health and wellness. Each of these are warnings that the mother should locate specialized help.

It's also not uncommon for quite a few mothers to try to create coping techniques to overcome these types of problems. Such tactics often include stuffing every day jam-packed with activities and tasks (equally out of design and necessity). They fight very hard not to quit moving, primarily because every time they do the fatigue sinks in along with the terror. While many such mothers may feel guilt about never wishing to leave bed, it's more crucial to remain active in order not to feel anxiety and fear.

Nevertheless, although this approach to coping might help a mother ignore many of the unpleasant thoughts and feelings, doing it can't help to overcome her worries and fears, much less help her be able to love her kids and her life.

Given the demands associated with nurturing a young child, it's easy to understand that mothers are likely to be moody, exhausted, and/or stressed… This may be particularly true for a new mom. However, when a new mother experiences considerable changes in appetite, motivation, and/or mood she ought to seek specialized help, regardless of whether or not the mother has previously been screened.

What Occurs After Screening?
Irrespective of whether you're trying to get support for a person you love or you have already been screened for depression or anxiety by your own perinatal healthcare provider or child's doctor, what happens after the examination is dependent chiefly on its overall results.

Assessment is just the first step in a step-by-step procedure for detection and assisting mothers and fathers struggling with anxiety or depression.

Typically, if the outcome of the screen suggests anxiety or depression, the mother or father will wind up being referred to one or more mental health practitioners for a consultation, examination, and review.

These kinds of professionals include mental health nurse practitioners, marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists, according to whether or not prescription medications can help manage the depression.

The good news is, whether or not medications are required, professional counseling and psychotherapy is often highly effective when treating perinatal mood disorders, postpartum depression, as well as other anxiety and depressive disorders.

The important thing is asking for assistance… And the earlier the better!

That is precisely what these revised screening recommendations and guidelines are all about…
When you or someone you care about is struggling with one or more of the warning signs discussed above, or any time you are troubled about the way you feel about your child or your responsibility as a mother, don't wait to get tested. Seek the advice of a mental health practitioner who focuses primarily on working with women to manage and treat depression or anxiety. There's help at your disposal and receiving the assistance you deserve as quickly as possible is the initial step towards making sure your baby and you have a joyful, gratifying relationship and life!


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