New report aims to better identify mental health issues for moms

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NEW YORK — Kristin Bowles is a mother of two. When she had her son four years ago, she had concerns.

“Just feeling a lot more panic, difficulty sleeping, being able to shut my brain off.”

She was eventually diagnosed with post partum anxiety and prescribed medication. About 15-to-20 percent of new mothers are affected by prenatal and post natal depression

“As a first-time mom, I wasn’t sure if those thoughts were normal versus not normal.”

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics aims to better identify mental health issues for moms before and after birth. The group recommends screening once during pregnancy, and then asks pediatricians to screen moms during infant wellness visits up to six months of age.

“Sadness, irritability, sleeplessness. I think the sleep deprivation that all new parents experience in the first few months after birth is certainly a risk factor for PPD,” said Dr. Michael Yogman.

The report says post-partum depression, if left untreated, can affect a child’s development and cause family relationship problems.

Dr. Yogman said diagnosing depression in fathers is also important.

“They may present a little differently with some different symptoms because they are not as likely to admit to sadness,” he said.

Anxiety and depression often occur together. When  Bowles was pregnant with her daughter, her pschyologist followed her closely. She was also screened at her baby’s wellness visits.

“Women should be talking to each other and to their doctors and getting connected to the right supports. That only makes you a better mom, a better woman,” she said.

She hopes reducing the stigma will help other women get the help they need.