Physician screenings may spot early signs of depression.
The United States Preventative Services Task Force is recommending that physicians should screen pregnant women, and women who have just given birth for mental health issues, to help discover those with signs of depression, according to usnews.com.
This marks the first time the panel has recommended this type of preventative care specifically among pregnant women and women who may be experiencing perinatal depression. Experts estimate one of every seven women suffer from depression-like conditions, such as postpartum depression.
The panel, which is made up of members of the medical community, makes recommendations for preventative care to doctors, and gave this recommendation a “B” rating, which guarantees the treatment will be covered by insurance under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. It also means the panel feels the screenings will have a moderate to high health benefit. The panel did not specify what kinds of physicians would be responsible for conducting the screenings.
Congress has not been able to agree on mental health reform, although several states have laws to encourage depression screenings, and this new recommendation could increase the number of women being screened. There is a bill in Congress that would provide federal funding for the screening of women, both during and after their pregnancies.
Maternal mental health is not completely understood, but it is known that the significant increase in hormones during pregnancy causes stress in some women. Recent studies have indicated that depression, as well as other mental health issues, many times will begin during the months of pregnancy, rather than after the baby has been born.
The panel warned that antidepressants could be harmful to the fetus if taken while pregnant, but says there are other forms of treatment that may be beneficial, including cognitive behavioral therapy and life style changes.
Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a statement said depression that occurs during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of a child is one of the most common pregnancy complications. He added that fewer than 20 percent of women self-report their symptoms, and that underscores the importance of physician screenings.
The panel’s recommendations will be available in the Journal of the American Medical Association.