MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The birth of a child is a happy time for most parents, but it can also cause overwhelming feelings of sadness and despair.
Postpartum depression and anxiety affect one in every seven new mothers, according to the CDC, but nearly half of cases go undiagnosed.
A new law in Arkansas means detecting these kinds of illnesses may now be a lot easier.
“It is a very real thing, not only for the patient, but for her family and the community,” Dr. Danielle Tate, a maternal fetal medicine physician with Baptist Medical Group said.
As a maternal fetal medicine physician that works with new moms, Dr. Tate has diagnosed more and more cases of postpartum depression.
“It’s actually one of the most common disorders or conditions that we see related to pregnancy, and it tops other things that we hear in the news as of late, such as high blood pressure and heart disease as it relates to pregnancy,” Dr. Tate said.
Although common, few mothers actually get the help they need.
That’s why a new law in Arkansas aims to help new mothers get access to screening.
“The big thing really is just to make sure that these women are getting screened and that, you know, someone’s asking mom, ‘How are you doing?,'” State Rep. Aaron Pilkington, who sponsored the new law, said.
It requires healthcare providers to ask mothers if they want to be screened for depression for up to six weeks after giving birth.
It also mandates insurance programs to cover the cost associated with screening. Pilkington said the goal is to catch these disorders early.
“If we’re not making sure that we’re checking to make sure that these issues are not being addressed properly, they can spiral out of control,” he said. “And we want to catch things early on.”
Dr. Tate said it’s a step toward improving maternal care in the Mid-South.
“It’s something that’s so easily treatable and oftentimes reversible, fixable if we just pay attention and put it at the forefront,” Dr. Tate said.