Maternal Mental Health is Wealth: Postpartum Depression Screening

Jun 14, 2023 at 01:30 pm by steve

By Jennifer M. Threatt, PhD & Allison Keleske, DNP, RNC-MNN

According to the World Health Organization, 25 percent of women experience Postpartum Depression (PPD) within the first two years after childbirth, and more than half of those Postpartum Depression cases are undiagnosed. Baby Blues is the feeling of sadness after delivery that 80 percent of women experience after birth that typically happens in the first three to five days of the postpartum period. Postpartum Depression is the feeling of sadness that continues beyond Baby Blues and is often accompanied by feelings of emotionless, emptiness, and hopelessness. It affects physical, behavioral, and mental capacities and is a serious mental health concern. 

Postpartum Depression is contributed to many factors, but changes in the hormonal balance and pronounced drop in estrogen and progesterone levels may be some of the drastic changes in the body after birth that trigger the symptoms. Additional risk factors related to increased risk of PPD are a history of prior mental health disorders, family history of depression, lack of support, alcohol or drug abuse, previous case of postpartum depression, or unplanned pregnancy.

Early screening and diagnosis is the key to treatment. Unfortunately, racial and socioeconomical disparities have created gaps in both screening and treatment which skews research data that is used to develop and adapt screening tools to combat Postpartum Depression.

The United States has a high mortality rate during childbirth, as well as in the postpartum period compared to other nations, and depression is among the concerning healthcare disparities. With proper prenatal care and regular doctors’ visits many maternal healthcare disparities that are recognized early are treatable. However, racial and socioeconomical disparities, access to healthcare, social disadvantages, or structural racism are recognized issues that delay treatment for the postpartum population.

The prenatal and postpartum periods present a vulnerability to mental illness in the obstetric clients. Therefore, flexible and responsive care needs to be available to the mothers. Focus care and recognition that these barriers increase critical opportunities of care and need more support:

  • Racial and socioeconomical stigmas
  • Poor communication of the mental health condition
  • Lack of time and childcare issues
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Feelings of failure

Follow-up calls and home visits are methods that can be used to better screen patients for postpartum depression. Community health workers and postpartum healthcare providers must partner to provide beneficial on time follow-up care to clients. 

We want to educate, empower, and promote mental health awareness of postpartum depression. Overcoming the health injustice and lack of education can reverse suboptimal detection and treatment rates in underrecognized and undertreated postpartum populations. Consistent doctors’ visits and early detection are key to develop appropriate treatment and follow-up with clients. Maternal Health is Wealth and the poor follow-up with this condition affects the mother and the baby.

Jennifer M. Threatt earned her PhD in education with a specialization in nursing education from Capella University. She can be reached at  

Allison Keleske earned her DNP from Walden University. She is a certified maternal newborn nurse. She can be reached at

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