February 2, 2016
Last week, a panel appointed by the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening all pregnant women for depression - even if they don't have any recorded risk factors. The USPSTF's new guidelines accompany a growing field of research on maternal mental illness supporting the hypothesis that “postpartum” depression in fact often begins during - not after - pregnancy. Their recommendations are more than just suggestions: the task force gave the new guidelines a “B” rating, meaning that the screening must be covered under the Affordable Care Act.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists previously recommended screening for perinatal depression, but emphasized that screening alone was not sufficient, and needed to be accompanied by systems in place to provide adequate mental health care and treatment. Despite the traditional recommendation that health care organizations should not screen for a condition they are not prepared to treat, these new guidelines recommend screening for depression even when such systems aren’t in place, citing the relatively increased availability of and acceptance of mental health care in our medical system.