May 10, 2019

More than the ‘baby blues’

Screening program identifies women with perinatal depression and connects them to treatment.

Veronica Monroy was elated after the birth of her daughter. “She was beautiful, and I was happy, really happy,” she recalled.

But 2 months later, Veronica noticed a change. “I was really sad all the time, and I didn’t feel like getting dressed,” she said. “It really scared me.”

Adding to her unhappiness were feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Monroy turned to her doctor for help. She was diagnosed with perinatal depression and began seeing a therapist, participating in a support group for new moms, and taking medication. Soon, she began to feel like herself again.

“I’m very thankful for all the support I received from my therapist and my doctor,” she said. “Knowing that they really cared for me — that helped me a lot.”

Support for mom and baby

Twelve to 20% of mothers experience depression before or after the birth of a child, but many health care providers don’t screen for the condition.

“It affects not only the woman herself, in terms of her well-being and ability to function, but also the child,” said Tracy Flanagan, MD, director of women’s health for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

Through the Perinatal Depression Screening Program, all pregnant members are screened before and after their baby’s birth. If the woman is diagnosed with depression, her obstetrician connects her with treatment and support.

“Women in my support group go from feeling like, ‘There’s something really wrong with me — I’m defective’ to feeling like ‘I’m a capable mom who is providing for my baby and family in a positive way,’” said Cosette Taillac, LCSW, strategic leader for mental health and wellness.

Learn more about maternity care at Kaiser Permanente.