Having a baby can be painful. Life after shouldn't have to be.

A new recommendation urges medical providers to screen new mothers for depression.

"I was like, 'Hey, I'm having postpartum depression.' I went to my OB, and he kind of brushed me off."

Almost immediately, Heidi Koss knew something wasn't right. The psychology major was experiencing some of the symptoms of postpartum depression and sought help. Sadly, it was hard to come by.

She went to her obstetrician/gynecologist only to be told she needed to "get out more" and maybe "buy a nice dress." She wasn't being heard. She wasn't being taken seriously.


"I kind felt like help was unavailable to me," she says.

She loved her baby, but she didn't love motherhood. Heidi recognized the symptoms of postpartum depression right away. Photo by Heidi Koss, used with permission.

Her postpartum depression continued on, untreated, for 17 months.

For those who've never experienced depression, it may be hard to understand what it's like to feel the symptoms compound over time. Heidi had nightmares, she felt scared, and she was irritable. The more time passed, the worse it got.

"And while I bonded to my baby and I loved my baby, I wasn't enjoying motherhood," she said. "It was a nightmare becoming a mother even though I loved my child."

It wasn't an issue of not bonding with her baby. She did. It was the depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and fear that kept her from keeping calm. Photo by Heidi Koss, used with permission.

Her story isn't at all out of the ordinary. Pregnancy-related depression is very common.

According to Postpartum Support International, between 15% and 21% of women experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety during pregnancy. Roughly 21% experience depression after birth. In fact, at that rate, mood and anxiety disorders are one of the most common pregnancy-related complications.

"It was a nightmare becoming a mother even though I loved my child."

Various studies have found that untreated depression and anxiety leave potentially lasting negative effects on parents and children.

That nightmare Heidi went through with her first doctor? It should never happen, but now it should happen much, much less.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an independent review board, in early 2016 issued some new, potentially lifesaving guidelines for depression screening. Here's what that means:

  • All adults should be screened for depression (including pregnant women and new moms).
  • Treatment should be made available for people who test positive.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. As Heidi's story illustrates, even when mothers actively sought help, it was sometimes denied. Now, hopefully, screening for depression will become a routine part of pregnancy, and new mothers won't face that same struggle.

"I think it's imperative to do early screening with every single mother every single time," Heidi tells me. Photo by Heidi Koss, used with permission.

Having a treatment plan in place ahead of her second pregnancy made all the difference in the world for Heidi.

Knowing she was at risk — mothers affected by mood and anxiety disorders are more likely to develop them during future pregnancies — she took preemptive measures before and during her second pregnancy, such as receiving therapy and medication to help ease the transition. Shortly after giving birth, symptoms of depression returned. Luckily for her, she had the right people and care providers in place.

"With my first, it took 17 months before I found an appropriate care provider who actually listened and got me into appropriate treatment. ... 17 months is a world of difference."

Not only will new guidelines help prepare doctors, but they'll also reduce stigma that surrounds depression.

In 1996, a National Mental Health Association survey found that the majority of Americans "think of depression as a sign of personal or emotional weakness." Other studies have shown a belief that seeking therapy or medication to treat depression or anxiety is a sign of poor character. Medically, these beliefs are flat-out wrong. Even so, they may deter people from seeking treatment.

If doctors roll depression screening into the battery of tests that accompany pregnancy, they will help normalize and reduce the stigma associated with it.(And, you know, it ensures that they're equipped to help out in these types of situations, as well.) Other tests can be self-administered, such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

This was a huge step forward in identifying and treating an all-too-common complication.

Family
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular