Postpartum depression affects the entire family, not just Mom. It is estimated that up to 25% of partners will suffer with postpartum depression, and that number skyrockets to 50% if Mom has postpartum depression. In 2018, the results of a study done in the United Kingdom shows that postpartum depression affects the children in the home. The children have developmental delays, higher rates of behavorial problems, are more likely to drop out of high school and are more likely to struggle with depression in the teen years. Postpartum depression has a ripple effect that can last for years and affects more than just the mother.
Outcomes would be better, recovery times would be shortened and families would be healthier and happier if we gave priority to eliminating or reducing the causes of postpartum depression instead of developing an IV treament or pill to treat the symptoms of postpartum depression. From an economic standpoint, heading off postpartum depression before it starts would reduce health insurance costs, and keep the family from having decreased earnings as a result of the family having to navigate life when one or more members is dealing with postpartum depression.
What would happen if we actually supported women and families during the postpartum period? What if we talked about what to expect in the postpartum period instead of glossing it over? What if we normalized that postpartum can be a challenging time? What if we sent midwives to check in with mothers before the six week appointment? What if we did more than a phone call in the first few days after birth to check on the family? What if support for new families involved more than a meal train the first week or so? What if someone came in a few hours a day to do laundry, dishes, floors, and maybe stay with baby while the parents get a shower and take a nap? What if our country decided to join the rest of the industrialized world and instituted a national policy requiring paid parental leave? What if we stopped focusing on the short term costs, and started focusing on the long term benefits of investing in and supporting new and growing families?
Postpartum is a wonderful, challenging time. As a midwife, I try my best to help families smooth out the rough spots and manage the challenges. I am a huge fan of postpartum planning. Doing more postpartum visits than just the one at 6 weeks is one way I am making a difference. Checking in more lets me assess how well mother is recovering, and to monitor for unwelcome things like postpartum exhaustion, anxiety and depression. Being able to catch these things early is key to keeping mothers and families safe and healthy in the postpartum period. There is a saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I agree and as a home birth midwife, I feel I am making a difference by focusing on prevention so families don't have to suffer while they wait for a cure to kick in.