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It impacts 15 to 20% of pregnant and postpartum mothers, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), but depression too often goes untreated because it can be so hard for the mothers who are suffering to ask for help.

Untreated depression can rob new moms of the joy of pregnancy and those early days of parenthood, but new guidelines from the AAP could see moms getting help sooner.

This week the AAP released a new policy statement urging pediatricians to "incorporate recognition and management of perinatal depression into pediatric practice" because research suggests about 50% of moms who are depressed during and after pregnancy now are going undiagnosed.

A mother may not be a pediatrician's patient, but if a pediatrician notices that a mom seems to be struggling, helping her is obviously helping the baby, too.

Dr. Marian Earls, the lead author of the report, explains in an AAP media release: "When we are able to help a mother deal with her mental health, we are essentially reaching the whole family."

Earls' colleague, Dr. Jason Rafferty, says the idea is that by helping moms, pediatricians are proactively caring for the child's health, too.

"We know that postpartum depression can be a form of toxic stress that can affect an infant's brain development and cause problems with family relationships, breastfeeding and the child's medical treatment," he explains.

Prenatal depression impacts way more mothers than people realize, as Motherly previously reported. It's estimated more than 400,000 babies are born to depressed mothers each year. In addition, about one in nine new moms in America experience postpartum depression symptoms, according to the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As Licensed Master Social Worker Erin Barbossa previously told Motherly, too many mothers have been going undiagnosed or untreated for too long.

"From my perspective, unfortunately, our medical system really lacks putting the mental health lens on unless symptoms are really severe," she explained. "We tend to focus on the physical symptoms related to the health of the baby, and if all of those check out, all is good enough."

The AAP's new guidelines seek to change that, by suggesting mothers get screened for depression once during pregnancy and then again during the baby's appointments at 1, 2, 4 and 6 months old.

The doctors behind the report say more work needs to be done to support parents suffering from depression and in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, but screening new mothers is a step in the right direction, and could change the lives of entire families.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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