To the Editor:
Having a new baby … the happiest time of a woman’s life, right?
Up to 1 in 5 new mothers will experience anxiety or depression, turning joy into sadness, worry, and confusion. Anxiety and depression are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and they affect the entire family. Mothers who are depressed are more likely to neglect health care advice, and children living with a depressed mother have increased likelihood of experiencing behavioral, emotional, and cognitive delays.
Recognizing the seriousness of these illnesses, several medical governing bodies — including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) — have all addressed the issue.
Recently, ACOG recommended that clinicians screen new and expectant mothers for anxiety and depression. ACOG went even further, encouraging its members to begin medical treatment or to refer their patients, as needed. The AAP recommends that pediatricians screen new mothers at well child visits, since the pediatrician will see the baby and mother at least seven times in the first year of baby’s life. The AAFP has developed a toolkit that can be used to help implement screening and identify resources.
And just in time for Mother’s Day, the Virginia General Assembly has declared May as Maternal Mental Health Month.
Fortunately, Virginia has a network of maternal-child health care providers, mental health professionals, and volunteers to assist new and expectant mothers experiencing anxiety and depression. Postpartum Support Virginia (PSVa), a non-profit organization, provides free peer-led support group throughout the state as well as referrals to mental health professionals who specialize in treating women with these illnesses. Learn more at www.postpartumva.org.
Celebrate Mother’s Day in a special way this year. Ask a new mom how she is doing. And tell her about Postpartum Support Virginia, where she can find hope and help.
Founder and Executive Director
Postpartum Support Virginia