Danville -- Crying spells, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and irritability are all signs of postpartum depression, which affects one in nine women and often goes undiagnosed.
Seeing that something should be done about this, Geisinger has responded by creating a program to screen for postpartum depression when mothers visit their providers for routine checkups or bring their children to the pediatrician’s office.
The program is compassionately designed to provide standardized postpartum depression screenings across a woman’s pregnancy journey — from Women’s Health to Pediatrics — empowering mothers to thrive physically, psychologically, and socially.
“Every time a woman is seen by a provider, be it in Women’s Health or even when taking her children to the pediatrician, it is an opportunity to screen for depression, to educate her about it, and to really engage her in treatment,” said Dr. Manuel Arreguin, director of Women's Health, Geisinger Northeast.
A mother’s mental well-being plays a key role in her child’s mental health, physical growth, and development. Moreover, COVID-19 has brought added stress and anxiety into everyone's lives. Women are now at an increased risk of developing postpartum depression.
“Our goal is a healthy family and that often starts at the heart of the family, the mother. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all mothers to be screened for postpartum depression. This gives us an opportunity to identify and support women with depression and has proven to increase the success of breastfeeding, bonding, and the development of her baby,” said Dr. Michele Neff-Bulger, Geisinger pediatrics.
The program uses the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), a validated 10-item questionnaire most commonly used to screen for postpartum mood disorders. During prenatal appointments, moms will be screened during their initial obstetrician visit, at the 28-week and 34-week checkups, during the six-week postpartum visit and during the one-year postpartum checkup visit.
The screening program expands to pediatric appointments, where mothers will be screened by a nurse in the exam room as part of their child’s well-child visits from two weeks to 12 months.
Training sessions and toolkits have been designed for physicians, midwives, and nurse practitioners across the health system since March 2020 to help them identify symptoms of depression in pregnant and new moms. The program includes clinical decision support to ensure mothers get the care they need.
“Geisinger created this program to make care easier for women during one of the most thrilling, life-changing, and sometimes challenging times in their lives. This is an innovative approach to care delivery across the woman’s pregnancy journey: leveraging education, outreach and advanced informatics technology from Women’s Health to Pediatrics,” said Karen Murphy, Ph.D., Geisinger’s chief innovation officer and founding director of the Geisinger Steele Institute for Health Innovation.
Geisinger has also created an online pregnancy hub called MyPregnancy Center, which hosts tools and resources for women's health, pregnancy, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and newborn care.