Screening for postpartum depression benefits mother and child

Depressed woman Postpartum Depression (PPD) (also known as postnatal depression) is a largely overlooked health problem in India, due to lack of awareness and to a stigma of mental illness. In a recent mdCurrent-India survey, 70% of doctors delivering 5 or more babies a week did not always screen for post-partum depression. PPD is a health condition that should not be ignored, as it affects not only the mother, but also the short- and long-term growth and health of the child. Depressed mothers are less able to take care of themselves and provide proper care or nourishment for their infant, which can even lead to increased maternal and infant mortality. In 2008, India accounted for approximately 20% of the world’s maternal deaths, 21% of all child (<5 years) deaths, and 25% of all neonatal deaths. The global reduction in maternal and infant mortality rates since has been minimal. The number of deaths and adverse effects on families in India can be reduced by early intervention and prevention by obstetricians and primary care physicians (PCP). The PCP is usually the first doctor to see the mother and infant after birth, and has the advantage of continuity and building a long-term doctor-patient relationship with the patient and family.

“Considering the high prevalence of postpartum depression, mental health assessment and screening of high-risk cases should be a part of routine antenatal care.”
-Dubey C, Gupta N, Bhasin S, Muthal RA, Arora R. Prevalence and associated risk factors for postpartum depression in women attending a tertiary hospital, Delhi, India. Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2012 Nov;58(6):577-80. doi: 10.1177/0020764011415210. Epub 2011 Aug 5. Available at:

Key Point: Postpartum depression (PPD) is underdiagnosed in India and, if left untreated, can have long- and short-term health consequences to the mother, child, and family, including maternal and infant mortality. Primary care physicians and other practitioners who work with pregnant women should incorporate screening and surveillance for PPD into their existing routine antenatal care. Providing families with education on PPD and information to community intervention resources can also help to reduce the prevalence of PPD in India.

PPD can affect the whole family and has been linked to various factors. A recent study on the prevalence and risk factors of PPD in women attending a tertiary hospital in Delhi revealed a 6% prevalence of women at risk for PPD, which is a similar prevalence found in other such studies. PPD may be due to a significant change in...

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