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Managing Maternal Depression Before and After Birth


Maternal postpartum depression can have serious adverse effects on the mother and child relationship, resulting in an environment that can disrupt the infant’s development. Infants who live in a neglectful or depressed setting are likely to show delays in development and impaired social interaction.

In a new clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal and Postpartum Depression Into Pediatric Practice,” published in the November print issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 25), pediatric practices are encouraged to screen mothers for postpartum depression, to use community resources for the treatment and referral of the depressed mother, and to provide support for the mother-child relationship. Estimated rates of depression among pregnant and postpartum women can range between 5 percent and 25 percent. A family history of depression, alcohol abuse and a personal history of depression increase the risk of perinatal depression. A prenatal visit in the pediatric medical home is an excellent opportunity to establish a relationship with the parents, assess for risk of depression and supports, and initiate preventive strategies. Postpartum depression can lead to increased medical costs, inappropriate medical care, discontinuation of breastfeeding and child abuse and neglect.

Screening is recommended by Bright Futures and the AAP Mental Health Task Force, and is a best practice in caring for infants and their families.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit