• Lisa Paul IBCLC

Postpartum mood screenings

As a lactation consultant, I am often one of the only health professionals seeing a mom on a regular basis. I develop a rapport with her, she shares details of her life with me, she breastfeeds in front of me. Often she is in physical pain due to feeding. Very often she is experiencing emotional difficulties due to her breastfeeding experience, whether she is questioning how good of a mother she is, or why her baby doesn't like her (because baby is always crying when she holds baby).

I spent the last two days at the TIPQC conference, and got the opportunity to learn more about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD). We talked a lot about risk factors, and breastfeeding difficulty is definitely one of them. Part of the purpose of this post is to share resources for screening. Moms can self screen, and share with their family, or care providers. I plan to use this post to send to my clients at certain critical times to make sure they are aware of where they are at. Slightly clumsy as it will require mom to self-advocate but I feel that this is a positive step in helping moms who may be at risk.

So when does the risk happen? Or more accurately, when should screenings be done?

  • Pregnancy, 2nd Trimester

  • 2 months postpartum

  • 4 months postpartum

  • 6 months postpartum (this is the peak of symptoms for many moms)

  • Weaning (any time weaning occurs, whether at 2 weeks or 3 years - it puts mom at risk due to the drop of oxytocin or the feel good hormone.)

If you are in any of these timeframes, getting screened by a health professional would be ideal. However, taking an online screening can be a step towards identifying whether you are feeling normal mom feelings or may be in a more fragile place. (Note: Dads are not exempt from the emotional rollercoaster of postpartum and are often ignored. They should be screened too.) Here are two options.

  • Edinburgh Depression scale has been the traditional screening for postpartum moms for some time.

  • The PHQ-9 is more of a generic mental health screening and would be appropriate for dads too.

If you got a score that indicates that something may be happening for you, if you are my client, please reach out to me. I will help you find local resources, and will not judge you in any way. I sent you to this page because you are in a risk zone due to the above schedule, not because I felt that you were exhibiting other risks.

Here are some resources should your score indicate further evaluation:

It is my hope that this post provides parents a window into a fragile period of their lives. Parenting a new baby is one of the most stressful jobs ever for a multitude of reasons. In stressful times, it is normal to break down - really it is! Getting support during that time can be the best gift you give your baby!

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