Utah Valley Hospital conducting postpartum screening on all mothers
There’s one message Kerri Abney makes sure to share with mothers when she’s visiting with them to talk about postpartum depression.
“I tell them, you are not crazy, and you are not weak,” Abney said.
Abney, a women’s and children’s social worker at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, is making more visits to mothers since the hospital started screening all mothers for mental wellness between when they give birth and are discharged.
The hospital has spotted between six to 10 additional cases each week of women struggling with their mental health since it began screening all new mothers six months ago.
American Fork Hospital and Orem Community Hospital will also begin screening all mothers post-birth, and the information will be shared throughout the Intermountain Healthcare system.
Moms were previously told about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and told to contact their doctor if they experience problems. The screenings now mean the mothers with immediate needs are connected with a social worker while in the hospital.
The screening asks the mothers questions about their mental health over the previous week. If they reach a certain score, have a history of mental illness or indicate they’ve recently wanted to hurt themselves, they get a visit from Abney.
Abney explains in the visit that she’s a mental health professional, makes sure the moms have some form of support and educates them about resources.
Abney also explains that mental health isn’t a mind over matter issue and speaks to the mother’s husband or other support person.
“It helps to get the help if you have someone saying to you, I am worried about this, I am concerned, I can see you’ve been struggling,” Abney said.
Kelby Ellis, a mother of five who lives in Lehi, experienced postpartum depression after the birth of her children.
She first experienced it eight years ago after the birth of her oldest child. But it wasn’t until three or four days after the birth of her son, when she was home, that she started experiencing symptoms.
“I had a very hard time sleeping,” Ellis said. “I had a very hard time eating, and I wanted to get in my car and just drive away — I didn’t know where — just drive away. I felt really anxious all of the time.”
What she was feeling came as a surprise, and it took a few stops to different medical professionals before she received help and therapy at Utah Valley Hospital.
A pre-discharge screening wouldn’t have picked up on her depression, Ellis said, because it came after she went home, but would have given her more education and clarity on what she was feeling.
“Something like this normalizes the experience and helps people not be afraid to seek treatment,” Ellis said.