Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common and serious illness, affecting up to 25% of women (CDC). Historically, screening for PPD has not been a focus of post-natal care, nor has there been widespread access to education and resources for women experiencing the condition. In May of 2019, the American College of Obstetriciansand Gynecologists (ACOG) updated their national guidelines, encouraging OB clinicians to incorporate routine screening for PPD as part of postnatal care process.
To learn more about the impact and treatment of PPD, Ovia Health interviewed Dr. Sonya Rasminsky, a psychiatrist specializing in women’s health and an expert in postpartum depression. Dr. Rasminsky has been in private practice for over ten years and is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
What is unique about your training and experience?
I’m a reproductive psychiatrist, focusing on reproductive life cycle transitions like pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, infertility, etc. A lot of psychiatrists aren’t trained to treat women who are pregnant or nursing. In my clinical work, I see women for both therapy and medication management and help women make decisions about therapeutic options during pregnancy and lactation. I currently have a private practice in Newport Beach, California, and I’m an associate clinical professor at UCLA, where I’m an attending psychiatrist in the Women’s Life Center. I’ve been doing this work for over 15 years.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) just updated their guidelines, highlighting the need for physicians to increase screening and monitoring for PPD. What are your thoughts about this new direction?
I think it’s fantastic, and exactly what we need! For ACOG to recognize that OBs should do more to monitor women’s mental health in the postpartum period is a huge shift in thinking. So much happens during the critical first six weeks post delivery, and this is exactly the time when moms need the most support. If a woman is struggling emotionally, her first call is often to her OB. Unfortunately, the way insurers pay for pregnancy care makes multiple postpartum visits challenging, so there is still work to be done to fully support new moms in identifying and addressing mental health issues after delivery.
When addressing PPD, the impact of the disease on partners is usually left out of the equation. What are your thoughts on that?
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders affect the whole family. Partners can be frightened by their loved one’s change in mood, don’t understand what is happening, and often have nowhere to turn for education and support. Making sure that resources are available for partners is an important component of a mother’srecovery. A great resource for partners can be found on the Postpartum Support International website.
What are some of the hidden costs associated with PPD?
Depression can lead to issues with self and baby care, trouble with breastfeeding, and poor mother-infant bonding. A mother’s inability to connect with her baby can cause difficulty with infant attachment and potential developmental delays. PPD often impacts a woman’s ability to successfully return to work as well.
What advice can you provide for employers regarding PPD?
Women recover from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Having a baby is huge life event even if everything goes perfectly, and the road is bumpier with PPD. Provide support and be compassionate - PPD doesn’t last forever. Try to offer additional bonding time as part of your maternity leave. Be open to changing shifts or offer flex hours. Your employee wants to get better and feel productive at work as much as you want her to. So much happens during the critical first six weeks post delivery, and this is exactly the time when moms need the most support.
In addition to face-to-face care with a mental health provider, what other resources are available to support women coping with PPD?
The more help a woman can get, the better. Many hospitals offer free support groups, and these can be a great way to get some non-judgemental education and meet others in the same situation. Online communities and digital apps such as Ovia Health that offer screening for early detection and clinical coaching intervention are also tremendous assets. These tools can make a huge difference in ensuring a woman recognizes when she might be depressed, and gets the treatment needed to make a full recovery.
How Ovia Health supports women with PPD
Ovia Health routinely screens women for depression, and relies on clinical coaching and personalized guidance to normalize the experience. Women who engage with Ovia Health throughout their postpartum and parenting journey are better prepared to recognize and address PPD as a result of our intervention. Ovia Health’s maternity and family benefits solution is an important addition for employers and health plans looking to create a supportive environment for women and families, especially when a mental health issue manifests.
To learn more about how employers can manage the impact of PPD on their workforce, download our webinar "PPD and Your Workforce: Managing the impact of PPD on moms, families, and productivity." In just 30 minutes, you'll learn:
- Why you want to increase identification among your employees
- What Maternal Mental Health (MMH) is and why it matters to your maternity care program
- The tools and resources you need to better support your employees
Download the webinar here.
Ovia Health’s maternity and family benefits solution is the #1 health product for women and families. Learn how Ovia Health can help you meet the needs of this new generation.
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