Postpartum depression is a treatable disease


By Jan Jarvis

New mother postpartum depression

Bringing home a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life.

When it’s not, women often feel as if something is wrong with them, said Shanna Combs, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UNT Health Science Center.

“They’re depressed, but women are very good at masking that,” she said.

The U.S. Preventative Service Task Force, a government advisory group made up of national experts in evidence-based medicine, has updated its recommendations on who should be screened for depression to include pregnant and postpartum women, regardless of risk factors.

Screening all women who are pregnant or have given birth is a step toward decreasing the stigma around mental illness. The screenings also must be covered under the Affordable Care Act.

As many as 1-in-7 women shows signs of depression after birth, but they may downplay the symptoms. Dr. Combs said she talks to her patients about depression and gives them a 10-question test that screens for it.

“A lot of the time, they’ll have a smile on their face,” she said. “But when I give them the test, they fail it.”

Patients with depression are usually treated with counseling and medication. But left untreated, depression can harm the baby, as well as the mother.

“When you have a depressed mom, it really affects the development of the child,” Dr. Combs said. “Lack of bonding and attachment can have a lifelong impact.”

Symptoms – including anxiety, frequent crying and obsessional thoughts – often show up within six weeks of the baby’s birth, but not always. Postpartum depression can occur up to a year later.

“For some women, it may not happen until they go back to work or start to wean the baby off breastfeeding,” Dr. Combs said.

Although there is still a stigma associated with depression, the guidelines focus attention on postpartum depression as a medical issue that needs to be screened for, Dr. Combs said.

“It’s a treatable disease, just like high blood pressure,” she said.

Idig Fc
Students offer expertise, compassion in screenings for hepatitis

By Alex Branch   A group of UNT Health Science Center students is putting its interest in infectious diseases to work in charity clinics and among high-risk populations in North Texas. Members of the Infectious Disease Interest Group student organization have tested at least 150 people...Read more

Apr 25, 2018

Reunion Fc
Empathy in action

By Alli Haltom   Evonne Kaplan-Liss was struggling with the effects of ulcerative colitis, recovering from surgery and feeling hopeless. “I sank into a deep depression,” said Kaplan-Liss, now a physician and Assistant Dean of Narrative Reflection and Patient Communication for the T...Read more

Apr 23, 2018

Namus Fc
A last chance for families with missing loved ones

By Jeff Carlton   The databases of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) contain files on more than 1,000 active missing person cases in Texas and about 14,000 nationwide – each one a tragedy for the families involved. “I’m not sure we can help a family fin...Read more

Apr 18, 2018

Rita Fc
Professor honored for outstanding contributions to field of biomedical engineering

By Alex Branch   Rita Patterson, PhD, a UNT Health Science Center Professor, has been inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows, one of the highest professional distinctions for medical and biological engineers. Dr. Patterson was rec...Read more

Apr 16, 2018