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AAP Urging Doctors To Step Up Depression Screening In New Mothers

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The updated policy recommends that the women should be screened for depression at least once during pregnancy.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that one in nine women in the United States suffer from postpartum depression. Some states experience an even higher rate at one out of every five women. Despite repeated call from major medical institutions endorsing the importance of screening, half of these women continue to remain undiagnosed.

The Culprit

According to the updated policy statement issued by AAP, which will be published on January 2019 issue of Pediatrics, the authors reveal that the low rates of perinatal depression screenings are due to stigma linked with mental conditions and parents' hesitation in accepting their emotional turmoil. At the same time, medical institutions also face challenges in training and paying the screeners.

"Mothers have their own fears — fear of judgment for dealing with mental health issues or being seen as an inadequate mother," Dr. Barbara Robles, a psychiatrist and faculty at the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio who was not involved in the AAP's new report, told ABC News.

Failing to provide necessary treatment to the mother and the baby can have serious health implications on both of them.

"We know that postpartum depression can be a form of toxic stress that can affect an infant's brain development and cause problems with family relationships, breastfeeding and the child's medical treatment," Dr. Jason Rafferty, a co-author of the report, said in a statement released by the AAP.

Not Just Mothers, Fathers Suffer Too

According to the authors of the updated policy, fathers also feel vulnerable after a baby is born. They experience high rate of postpartum depression and must also be identified and referred for cure, explained Dr. Michael Yogman, co-author of the AAP's report.

Robles suggests that apart from screening them for depression, new mothers and fathers are advised to lower their expectations from each other. It is unfair to expect from a new mother to call on FaceTime or ask you for a dinner date, she added.

Robles also recommends checking in with new parents from time to time and offering them an extra pair of hands by taking care of their baby as they nap or listening to them without judgment.

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