Doctors say maternal mental illness is underdiagnosed in the Tx Panhandle

VIDEO: Postpartum depression is underdiagnosed according to Doctors
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 9:36 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:18 AM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Experts say a mom-to-be should let doctors know of any past diagnosis such as anxiety and or depression as well as have close family members look out for warning signs.

“There’s no question in my mind that a postpartum depression rate of 15 percent is exceptionally low, much lower than it actually is,” says Teresa Baker, M.D. Texas Tech Physicians OB+GYN.

Baker says when women get screened for post partum depression or other maternal mental illnesses, the check boxes can be vague and applicable to any new mom.

However, the biggest reason why young mothers typically withdrawal from reaching out is the fear of losing the one person they love most in the world, their baby.

“A lot of people fear that if they access care their baby will be taken from them. and that is the last goal of anybody in this health care system. we want to keep them whole as a unit,” says Baker.

Finding out postpartum depression can affect just about any new mother and how prevalent it really is begs the question: what the risks truly are and how to prevent tragedy.

“We need moms to reach out for help,” says Jessica LaBonte, Founder and Director of the non profit Breathe Mama.

Dr. Baker says there are a lot of factors that play into the causes of post partum depression; most commonly pre-existing mental illness such as anxiety or depression.

“So there’s some hormonal swings, there’s fatigue, there’s stress, and then there’s underlying factors that just, you know, you add them up and add them up and there’s a straw that breaks the camel’s back,” says Baker.

LaBonte also has a Facebook support group which offers peer support to new mothers in the Panhandle.

“It makes you feel less alone. When you’re in that state of depression, anxiety, anything, you feel alone and you isolate yourself because you don’t realize there are other moms who’ve had those exact same feelings and thoughts,” says LaBonte

Experts say reported postpartum depression cases are under reported and there is a reason why: Fear.

“Just because you go to the doctor and say, hey, I’m having these scary thoughts. I’m not feeling good. This this this, they’re not going to take your child away,” says LaBonte

Baker says the stigma pospartum depression and other maternal mental illness carries is the main part of the problem.

“The more we normalize it and in invite women to be honest with us and find better treatments for it, the better we’re gonna get but until that point, people are gonna hide,” says Baker.

Click here to find out more about Postpartum Support of the Texas Panhandle.