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WCH psychiatrist publishes clinical guidelines for postpartum depression

Spring 2017

New clinical recommendations published in the New England Journal of Medicine provide doctors with guidance on how to identify the symptoms of postpartum depression in their patients and choose the right treatments.

Postpartum depression is one of the most common complications women face after pregnancy, although it remains underdiagnosed. Left untreated, it can hurt the health of the mother, baby and the rest of the family. Dr. Vigod, a scientist and psychiatrist at WCH, co-authored an overview of the evidence and clinical recommendations for identifying and treating postpartum depression with Dr. Donna Stewart, from the University Health Network and Toronto General Hospital.

“I hope these recommendations will help doctors feel more confident in diagnosing and treating postpartum depression so that women can get the help they need to get better,” Dr. Vigod says. The authors recommend that doctors ask questions about mental health at follow-up appointments with women who have just had a baby. A woman experiencing postpartum depression may have symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, crying, insomnia and a lack of interest in things she previously enjoyed.

If a woman is diagnosed with postpartum depression, the authors recommend that doctors learn if they have any history of mental illness and explain all of their treatment options, recommending treatments according to the severity of symptoms. Women with mild to moderate postpartum depression may recover with psychotherapy, while more severe cases may benefit from an antidepressant or a combination of both approaches. Most common antidepressants are considered relatively safe for women who are breastfeeding, the authors write.

This research is an example of how WCH is contributing to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario.

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