Addressing Postpartum Depression in the Primary Care Setting: Current Screening Practices and Quality Improvement
As the family’s primary point of interaction with the healthcare system in the postpartum period, the pediatric primary care setting offers an invaluable opportunity to identify parents suffering from postpartum depression and refer them for treatment. However, research from the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that physicians frequently underutilize opportunities to screen parents for the condition, and even those who do screen positive for depressive symptoms may never receive help. This failure to diagnose and treat postpartum depression on a consistent basis ultimately harms both parental and infant health. This thesis examines the current state of the problem, beginning with a brief history of the medicalization of postpartum depression. After giving some general background on the condition, this thesis offers a multivariate analysis of the incidence of postpartum depression in a private pediatric clinic in Northern Virginia. Finally, the referral practices of this clinic are examined, and suggestions are made for quality improvement.