La Grange, IL – A new awareness campaign launched this year at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital seeks to educate patients and their families and physicians, nurses and other clinical caregivers about post-partum depression. New mothers, upon discharge from the hospital, are given a 50-page booklet called “A New Beginning,” a pamphlet entitled “Is it the Baby Blues or something more?,” a list of local community facilities, hotlines and other resources for perinatal depression, and an informational packet produced by Depression After Delivery, Inc., a national nonprofit dedicated to helping women deal with pregnancy and childbirth.
“Although it’s a common problem during and after pregnancy, many times women don’t recognize the symptoms of perinatal depression and therefore don’t talk to their physicians about it,” said Dr. Jack Payne, an ob/gyne who treats patients at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital and Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. “Getting patients and their families to recognize the symptoms is the first step toward treatment.”
Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital also has hosted three programs for health care workers: one for social workers and nurses, another for obstetrician/gynecologists, and a third for pediatricians. Two of the workshops were presented by experts from the UIC Perinatal Mental Health Project, part of the Women’s Mental Health Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“We are working to raise awareness among families and health care workers so they can identify the signs of postpartum depression,” said Pamela White, nurse manager of the Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital Birth Center.
The campaign was created in response to a new state law (Public Act 95-469, effective 1/1/08) requiring licensed health care professionals to provide education to women and their families about perinatal mental health disorders. The law also requires health professionals to ask new moms to complete a questionnaire to assess whether they suffer from the disorder.
Depression is one of the most common complications during and after pregnancy impacting both the mother and her child. Postpartum “baby blues” affects 50 to 80 percent of women, while the more serious perinatal depression affects 9.4 to 12.7 percent of new mothers in the U.S., according to UIC. Public awareness of the disorder has increased following recent news stories about Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields and other celebrity moms suffering from postpartum depression.
Signs of perinatal depression include:
· Loss of appetite
· Crying spells
· Feelings of hopelessness or loss of control
· Too much or too little concern about the baby
· Fear of touching the baby
· Little or no concern about mother’s own appearance
· Inability to sleep or excessive sleep
“The more we can increase people’s knowledge of perinatal mental health disorders, then the more avenues we can identify to get early treatment for mothers who need it,” White said.