"The reason it's important for clinicians to know this is that it affected health outcomes such as breast-feeding," he said. "Trouble breast-feeding can be a source of a lot of acute anxiety, and then more health care [visits] for women, as well as more depression. It makes me question: Is this something we want to think about screening for?"
New mothers often are asked about depressive symptoms by pediatricians during their babies' many newborn visits, but it may be wise for doctors to add questions about anxiety as well, Paul said.
Dr. Jill Rabin, chief of ambulatory care and obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said more research is needed on the subject. But she cautioned people not to "medicalize" typical emotions surrounding major life events such as childbirth.
"I think we try a little too hard to over-think and over-medicalize things. It's important to realize that this is a normal, natural life event and any life change can cause anxiety," said Rabin, who also is head of urogynecology at the medical center. "Even if everything goes perfectly, it's still a stressor and it still has to be dealt with."
Mental Health America has more about postpartum disorders.
SOURCES: Ian Paul, M.D., M.Sc., professor, pediatrics and public health sciences, and associate vice chairman for research, department of pediatrics, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey; Jill Rabin, M.D., chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics and gynecology, and head of urogynecology, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; April 2013, Pediatrics
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