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New mothers often not asked about depression, UNC survey finds

CHAPEL HILL The majority of doctors in North Carolina do not probe for signs of postpartum depression in new mothers, according to a survey conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Of the 228 physicians responding to the survey who said they had seen women for postpartum visits in the previous three months, 79 percent said they were unlikely to formally screen the patients for depression. An estimated 13 percent of new mothers are affected by postpartum depression. The study will be published June 6, 2007 in the North Carolina Medical Journal.

We believe that it is very important that physicians work some type of depression screening into postpartum visits, said Betsy Sleath, lead author of the study and a professor in UNCs School of Pharmacy.

And perhaps even more important, women shouldnt be afraid or embarrassed to raise this issue with their doctor. Were expected by society to be happy when we have a child so sometimes its hard to talk about the fact that women feel sad, or that its hard being a new mother, Sleath said.

The Patient Health Questionnaire and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale are formal tools physicians and others can use to determine a womans risk of postpartum depression. But Dr. Bradley Gaynes, one of the studys co-authors and a psychiatrist with UNC Health Care, said that checking for signs of depression doesnt require a formal screen; it could be as simple as asking a new mother two questions:

  • Has your interest in your usual activities changed?
  • Do you feel depressed or hopeless?

We recognize that physicians must cope with many demands on their time, Gaynes said. But depression is one of the most common postpartum complications, and a postpartum depression needs to be identified before it can be treated. We encourage clinicians to always check for signs of depression during postpartum visits. These q
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Contact: Clinton Colmenares
clinton_colmenares@unc.edu
919-843-1991
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
31-May-2007


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