Women Need to Be Screened for Depression, Before and After Giving Birth
All pregnant and postpartum women, should be screened for depression by their family doctor, the nation’s leading preventive medicine panel recommends. Further, doctors need to follow through and get treatment for anyone who tests positive for depression, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded in an update of its depression screening guidelines.
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This is the first time the panel has specifically advocated depression screening in pregnancy and shortly after giving birth. It cited a U.S. study that found that 9 percent of pregnant women and more than 10 percent of postpartum women exhibited signs of major depression.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) applauded the recommendation.
“Because fewer than 20 percent of women in whom perinatal depression is diagnosed self-report their symptoms, routine screening by physicians is important for ensuring appropriate follow-up and treatment,” said ACOG president Dr. Mark DeFrancesco in a statement.
Depression can harm both the child and mother, interfering with their interactions and affecting social relationships and school performance, the panel noted. Risk factors during pregnancy and after delivery include poor self-esteem, child-care
stress, prenatal anxiety and decreased social support, the report said.
The new report — published Jan. 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association — updates a similar recommendation the panel issued in 2009 that called for routine screening of adults.
In general, primary care physicians should be able to treat most cases of uncomplicated depression, and refer more complex cases to a psychiatrist, said Dr. Michael Pignone, a member of the task force and director of the University of North Carolina’s Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement.
Options for treatment include therapy with a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker or antidepressant medications.
The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in preventive medicine. It issues recommendations, and revisits them on a regular basis to make sure that medical evidence still supports the guidelines.