Talking About Depression With Your Ob-Gyn

Written by yvonnethornton on July 25th, 2013

Depression is one of the most serious and prevalent disorders affecting women in the present day. It is also one of the most underreported disorders affecting women, and the number of those affected by it is increasing every year. Depression affects women of all age ranges and social statuses, and it affects those in poor health as well as those who are seemingly in perfect condition. With depression being so common, and affecting so many, it would seem that Ob-Gyn’s regularly diagnosis this problem in women. However, studies are suggesting that doctors miss a diagnosis of depression in as much as sixty percent of their patients.

Whether the women had a preexisting diagnosis of depression, reported suffering from psychological distress, or simply felt as if they might be depressed, their depression consistently went undiagnosed throughout visits with their Ob-Gyn. The most common signs recognized by doctors included physical manifestations of the disorder, such as weight gains and losses as well as reported insomnia.

Those that did receive a diagnosis were primarily women who were under twelve months postpartum, those under thirty-five years of age, and women who were seeing their Ob-Gyn either to discuss their depression symptoms or as part of a regular checkup. The most common visits in which the depression went unnoticed were visits in which the woman had scheduled an appointment to discuss an existing complaint.

This raises the all-important question—why do so many doctors miss depression diagnoses? There are likely a number of factors, ranging from the feeling of suffers that they are not in need of help to a reluctance to discuss any issues that are not “medical” with a medical practitioner. However, it is important for women to realize that depression is a medical issue, and it is one that can severely impact them throughout their lives—and it can even impact their health directly. Recognize that your mental state is just as important to report as your physical state and, most importantly, persistent feelings of sadness, loneliness, and lack of interest in one’s life are not feelings that must simply be “dealt with”.  Your doctor can help.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


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