Postpartum Telemedicine: Self-Care After Baby

Pregnancy is a joyous time for new families.  Bringing a new addition into the world is an exciting, yet scary time for parents.  The 40-week journey is full of doctor’s appointments, scans, and milestones, and it doesn’t stop once the baby is born.  After the precious bundles of joy make their long-awaited debut, comes the routine of diapers, nursing, and sleepless nights, and sometimes postpartum depression (PPD).  CDC research shows about 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of PPD.  The schedule for newborn appointments can be daunting, so many mothers who have PPD symptoms may not be able to access treatment.

The Harvard Review of Psychiatry suggests that postpartum depression remains a long-term problem for 30-50% of affected women.  PPD also has significant consequences for babies, partners, and early relationship-building. Knowledge regarding prolonged impacts on the mental health of mothers with PPD may not only “improve our understanding of the course of PPD, but also inform prevention and intervention strategies”.  Knowledge is power, and that power can improve treatment and reduce stigma for future parents.

Diagnosing postpartum depression is challenging as symptoms vary from woman to woman.  However, a quantitative test, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, provides insight into symptoms by scoring via a 10-item questionnaire.  This survey, provided by the American Association of Pediatrics, seeks to ‘provide resources to postpartum mothers in an accessible and non-intrusive way’.  Through telehealth, providers can administer the assessment, meet with mothers to discuss symptoms, and devise an effective treatment plan for PPD.  This allows new mothers greater peace of mind and confidence to address any question or concern that may arise.

Postpartum depression doesn’t have one specific cause, but researchers cite hormonal changes, genetics and major life changes as frequent contributors.  After childbirth, hormone levels, notably estrogen and progesterone, quickly drop in a woman’s body leading to possible chemical imbalances. These changes can occur in any woman, so no one is exempt from developing postpartum depression.  Even so, significant treatment barriers like shame, stigma, lack of time, lack of childcare, and lack of social supports are problematic. Treatment via telemedicine seeks to offer more women the chance to instigate meaningful change and address PPD.

Research suggests the US spends more than $80 billion on healthcare costs associated with depression annually.  Teleobstetrics and telebehavioral health play an important role in providing accessible care for new mothers suffering from PPD.  New mothers can face a multitude of physical and emotional changes, some of which can be life-threatening.  Upon release from the hospital, women are still susceptible to further changes. Symptoms of postpartum depression may not present until after women leave the hospital.

Teleobstetrics provides continuous care so mothers can receive monitoring from doctors, while still tending to their newborn, in the privacy of their home.  This access to gynecological and psychological care is an unparalleled necessity for new mothers. Getting time to sleep or shower is hard enough, nevertheless, postpartum care, which some may argue, is more critical to the mother’s and the baby’s, long-term health prospects.  Fortunately, new legislation, such as the MOMMIES Act, opens the door for more telemedicine solutions for new mothers.  It aims to ‘study telemedicine and its effectiveness and potential to improve Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to maternity care’.  Through continuous treatment and studies, new mothers learn to handle uncertainty, cope with stress, and address the side effects of PPD, to establish better sleep patterns and balance their new responsibilities.

Telebehavioral options for postpartum depression typically start with determining the duration and severity.  From there, a combination of counseling and medication is administered to address symptoms and prevent them from worsening.  Treatment plans can range from a few weeks to months, so it’s important that new mothers allow the time for the right treatment plan to take effect, and find the right provider for their needs.  Access to a vast provider source, like WeCounsel’s nationwide network, assists in expanding options and empowering new mothers.

If detected and addressed in a timely manner, postpartum depression is easy to treat.  Having a baby, while joyful, is challenging and every woman deserves support. There’s no shame in postpartum depression.  The only way to heal is to address it and seeking treatment starts with talking to your healthcare provider.  Telemedicine provides a safe and secure way to treat postpartum depression to meet the demands of new motherhood.