Postnatal Mental Health Care Should Go Beyond Postpartum Depression

A new study indicates a strong need for postnatal support that goes beyond postpartum depression to encompass other types of mental health issues that may plague new moms as well, such as anxiety, loneliness, panic, and overthinking. The findings are published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Furthermore, the researchers found that many distressed new mothers failed to “qualify” for postpartum depression after completing the commonly used questionnaire, and therefore received no help.

The authors go on to question whether this measure alone is truly a sufficient method to identify all types of distress. They believe that alternative methods of assessment would be more conducive to identifying and supporting women with a number of different postnatal mental health issues.

For the study, the researchers examined the postnatal symptoms of distress experienced by women, and the support options they were offered.

“Current classification and assessment of postnatal mental health problems may not adequately address the range or combination of emotional distress experienced by mothers,” said researcher Rose Coates and team.

To understand women’s own experiences, the researchers interviewed 17 women, all of whom had a child under one and had experienced a postnatal mental health issue.

Throughout the interviews, the new moms reported a number of different postnatal mental health symptoms, with tearfulness and anxiousness cited as the most common. Furthermore, a number of women each reported feeling the following symptoms: stressed, isolated, lonely, angry, low, panicky, frustrated, worried, scared, and overthinking.

Despite these symptoms of postnatal distress, the women found that they didn’t quite identify with postnatal depression, and many of them were left “bereft of information, advice, and support” about other types of distress. The researchers added that “there was a perception that health professionals were focused on postnatal depression and once it had been ruled out there was no further investigation.”

Upon expression of their symptoms, many of the new moms had been assessed for postnatal depression by health care professionals through answering a questionnaire.

The authors question whether this type of measure alone is really sufficient to identify distress, and suggests that alternative methods of assessment would be helpful in the process of identifying and supporting women with a number of different postnatal mental health issues.

The authors conclude that “Identification and recognition of symptoms and disorders beyond postnatal depression needs to be improved, through evaluating different approaches to assessment and their acceptability to women.”

Source: Taylor & Francis