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Pediatric Primary Care Providers and Postpartum Depression: Educating Providers About the Importance of Regular Screening, Referrals and Follow-up

Postpartum depression affects approximately 10-20% of women in the first year after giving birth. Postpartum depression can be difficult to assess, as many symptoms mimic that of “normal” postpartum activity, including insomnia, changes in appetite and anxiety. Lack of education about postpartum depression, or fear of discussing these concerns with their providers, can cause postpartum depression to go undiagnosed and untreated. Additionally, women who are diagnosed with some level of postpartum depression may not ever receive treatment for it. Undiagnosed and untreated postpartum depression can have serious health implications for mothers and their babies, causing permanent effects on child developmental. Pediatric primary care providers have the most access to new mothers after delivery, and are in a unique position to educate about and screen for postpartum depression during the numerous newborn/infant well exams; they are also capable of facilitating any necessary care for mothers who screen positive via referrals and following up, which is crucial for improving outcomes. Not all pediatric primary care providers screen for post postpartum depression; some screen but do not refer or assist with follow up, for reasons that include lack of education and lack of awareness. This quality improvement project aimed to educate pediatric providers about the importance of screening regularly and how to facilitate follow-up care for those who screen positive for postpartum depression. Outcomes, as measured by self-report Likert survey showed that 88% of participants reported more awareness of available resources for women with postpartum depression and 44% reported improved sense of responsibility for screening for postpartum depression in the pediatric setting.
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