The pregnancy screen every parent should take

Being a new parent or parent-to-be can be hard on your mental health. There are only so many stressors that any individual can handle at any given time, so sometimes when something goes wrong – your baby pees all over your clean work clothes, or you forget to send an email or dinner burns – it can feel like the end of the world. Maybe it feels like everything is going wrong. Or maybe it feels like, actually, it’s not any one thing you can pinpoint that feels wrong – you just feel really crummy, and you can’t be sure why. It isn’t just you – this time in your life can be really tough for a lot of parents.

What’s “normal”?

It can be hard to know what a “normal” degree of stress is while pregnant and when figuring out life as a new parent. After all, bringing a baby into the world takes a lot out of you. It takes time for your body to recover, time to adjust to all the new responsibilities that come along with taking care of a little one, and time to adjust to how being a parent fits into the rest of your life. There are plenty of parts of parenting that wouldn’t necessarily be described as fun – physically recovering from labor and birth, lack of sleep, the list could go on – and actually are hard. But there is a distinction between a normal sort of feeling run down and something more serious.

Tools to help assess mental health

It’s common for new parents to struggle with their mental health, both while expecting a baby and after the birth of a child. Healthcare providers can use a number of assessments to help determine if what you’re feeling is normal or if you might be experiencing perinatal depression, postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or any other Perinatal or Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (or PMADs). PMADs occur in 15% to 20% of women who have recently given birth, but they can often go unrecognized and untreated.

Providers can screen for symptoms of depression and anxiety, often with questionnaires like the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale or the PHQ9 that can be given to an individual at various times throughout pregnancy or after having a baby. These questionnaires are best answered honestly so that healthcare providers can really assess how you’re feeling and help you consider just what sort of care you might need and benefit from.

Getting help is important, and assessment can help

It’s important that if you are experiencing depression, anxiety or OCD–during or after pregnancy–you get treatment and start on a path toward feeling better. When left untreated, they can have negative effects on you, your child, and your family.

If, after screening, your provider discusses that you may be at high risk for a mental health condition, know that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Screening tools are a first step, they are not a diagnosis. These sorts of screenings aren’t anything you need to be nervous about. They are given to every person at certain stages of pregnancy and new parenthood. This type of universal screening can help decrease the stigma around mental health that exists in some communities and help identify those most at risk. 

A huge part of taking care of yourself while pregnant and postpartum is focusing on your physical health, but your mental health is essential. You deserve to feel safe and valued. And support and treatment will help you to be the best parent you can be.

Read more
  • DK Gjerdingen, BP Yawn. “Postpartum depression screening: importance, methods, barriers, and recommendations for practice.” The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 20(3):280-8. May-June 2007. Retrieved June 18 2018.
  • “Screening for perinatal depression: Committee opinion number 630.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, May 2015. Retrieved June 18 2018.
  • “Screening Recommendations.” Postpartum Support International. Postpartum Support International. Retrieved June 18 2018.
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