Depression, Maternal Health Month, Maternal Health Month 2014, Mental Health, postpartum depression

Advanced Screenings


They didn’t ask me to fill out the maternal mood questionnaire when I arrived for my annual physical today. I guess I’m no longer in the danger zone of postpartum. I no longer have a baby. My children are older. I’m more experienced. Everything should be easy-peasy at this point.

Or maybe they didn’t ask because my doctor knows. My chart already says ‘depressive disorder’. She just refilled my script for a low-dose of antidepressant. There’s no point in screening because we’re post-diagnosis.

She asked how I was feeling, how I was faring. A shrug of the shoulders. An approximation of one on my lips. Hunky-dory, doc. Some days are worse than others. I’m not cured, if that’s what you mean. I don’t want to run screaming from the house with my hair on fire – and haven’t for a while – but I still tend toward blah.

Maybe I’m expecting too much. I mentioned that I still have down days, but perhaps that’s the normal up and down of life. Yes, she said, you shouldn’t feel numb; you’ll have high points and low points. The lows seem so miserable, though. I know everyone has days when they don’t want to get off the couch, but my reasons seem so much more melancholy. A hollow near my heart, scooped out of the space where my joy once was. It’s not non-existent, but I haven’t noticed yet a day when the balloon inflates fully to fill that space.

I felt cheated somehow in not being ‘screened’. That it doesn’t matter since I’m beyond the threat of postpartum? That I’ve been given my happy pill so I should just shut up and take it? That I’ve been asked the same questions before and still don’t have any definitive answers?

But I suppose the screening isn’t perfect anyhow. A mother I know posted this status update after one of her trips to the doctor’s office.

At my physical I had to answer depression screening questions. One question was: “Do you feel like you’re failing your family or letting them down?” I laughed! Instead of circling the sometimes, often, or usually, I wrote in “Of course I do – I’m a working mother!”

No one questionnaire is going to get at the heart of each and every mother’s difficulties. I suppose it’s a step in the right direction that someone, anyone is asking – even if it’s a sheet of paper on a clipboard. But it should only be a beginning. Precisely because that question was laughable to that mom in its ironic understatement, we need to illustrate and represent all facets of a mother’s struggle – and give her the tools to do so – in order to help her when she needs it.

Image links to an online screening tool via Kent University (not specific to maternal mood disorders)

Click for an online screening tool via Kent State University (not specific to maternal mood disorders)



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