Thousands of new mothers feel overwhelmed during the first few months after giving birth, with many suffering in silence because their postnatal depression goes untreated.

Early diagnosis and quick access to treatment of this condition is crucial – both for the mother and the family’s health, but also to manage long-term medical costs.

Graham Anderson, Principal Officer of Profmed, the medical scheme catering exclusively to graduate professionals, says if post-natal depression is to be more readily treated by following the correct guidelines in the healthcare sector, individuals and medical schemes alike can save costs in the long term.

“Post-natal depression is a serious mental illness that has long-term deleterious effects on the entire family. Many depressed mothers are too ill to see to their own and their children’s basic health needs. They suffer from detachment from their infant and other children and their stress also impacts on the father’s emotional wellbeing,” he says.

Post-partum depression can begin any time during the first two months after a mother gives birth and can last for up to a year.

Therefore, Anderson says it is very important that new mother’s especially are carefully monitored by their healthcare providers during this entire period, and that the mother’s family and friends are also aware of the signs and symptoms that mothers may experience post-delivery so that they are able to seek help as soon as possible.

“Post-natal screening for depression should take place routinely to help identify the large numbers of depressed women who are otherwise undetected. Sometimes women may need to undergo drug treatment such as antidepressants for their symptoms and also go for psychological counselling or join support groups for mothers,” explains Anderson.

Anderson says that this treatment is generally covered by medical schemes but comes out of day-to-day benefits or savings and not the hospital benefit of the option you are on. “However, if the patient is suffering from a severe form of depression and needs hospitalisation, this will be paid from their hospital option,” he explains.

Anderson says this is especially so for younger women and women who have given birth for the first time who are less likely to recognize the symptoms than those who have had previous pregnancies.

“There are a multitude of reasons that may lead to post-natal depression but one of the most common causes is the enormous changes that one realises when they have a child and the responsibilities that go with the experience. It is quite a shock, coupled with the hormonal changes and lifestyle changes that go along with it,” says Anderson.

He says symptoms may include: irritability or hypersensitivity; difficulty concentrating; anxiety and worry; crying or tearfulness; anger; negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or guilt; loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy; difficulty sleeping (especially returning to sleep); fatigue or exhaustion; changes in appetite or eating habits; headaches, stomach aches, muscle or backaches.

“Post-natal depression, as with most forms of depression and mental illness, does not discriminate and we encourage all of our members to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this condition and to seek advice as soon as possible so that early treatment can be arranged,” says Anderson.


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