A health panel appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services announced that women should be screened for depression during pregnancy and after giving birth, NYTimes reports.
The recommendation follows the release of a new study that suggests maternal mental illness is more common than previously thought and growing evidence that suggests many cases of postpartum depression actually begin during pregnancy.
The recommendation is part of updated depression-screening guidelines issued by the panel. They added that depression screenings must be covered under the Affordable Care Art. For screening methods, the group recommends the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, a 10-question survey, but they did not specify which clinicians should screen and how often.
In terms of treatment, the panel said evidence showed cognitive behavioral therapy had proved beneficial for mothers and mother-to-be suffering with depression. They added that the use of some antidepressants during pregnancy could cause "potential serious fetal harms," but that "the risk... is low." They emphasized that untreated depression has many consequences; women with depression often take poorer care of their prenatal health, and maternal depression can lead to behavioral issues in children.
Currently, just one state — New Jersey — has laws requiring maternal depression screening, but a dozen other states have laws on the books encouraging screening, education and treatment.