Depression Screening Recommended for All Pregnant Women

A group of government-backed doctors believes all adults, especially pregnant and postpartum women who are most at risk, should undergo depression screenings.

Depression Screening Recommended for All Pregnant Women SHYPULIA TATSIANA/Shutterstock

The U.S. Preventative Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of experts in primary care, is recommending depression screenings for everybody—including (and perhaps even especially) pregnant and postpartum women. According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, these screenings can be the first step to implementing the right diagnosis, treatment and follow-up that individuals need.

Prevalence in pregnancy

It might come as a surprise to some, but depression is one of the leading causes of disability in individuals as young as 15 years of age. While depression can affect just about anyone, it seems to be notably common in pregnant and postpartum women. Depression doesn't just affect individuals, it can also harm families—and since pregnant women quickly become caretakers, it seems especially important that they be treated for depression.

The USPSTF has studied the implications, both negative and positive, of screening for depression. They've also looked at the accuracy of diagnosis and effectiveness of treatments. In light of this, they believe all adults aged 18 and older should be screened.

The importance of screening

Per its findings, the USPSTF has reason to believe that these screenings can improve the accuracy of identification in patients with depression, which can in turn lead to more targeted and beneficial treatment. There's a specific finding that relates to pregnant women as well: The USPSTF found significant indicators that cognitive behavioral therapy can improve clinical outcomes for pregnant and postpartum women who suffer from depression.

Their findings also lead the group to believe that these screenings can pose little to no harm to the population and are perfectly safe for pregnant/postpartum women as well.

Here's where things get a bit tricky for pregnant women who are diagnosed with depression: Treatment options generally involve antidepressant use, but pregnant women might be advised to avoid antidepressants as there have been some reports to show they could harm a fetus. Medical professionals are encouraged to pursue counseling-based treatment in these cases.