January 26, 2016
On Tuesday, a key panel of experts issued updated depression screeningguidelines for American adults, including— for the first time— pregnant women. While screening for depression during and after pregnancy may be standard in some states, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF), a panel appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services, now formally supports that advice.
For the health of America’s future generations and our mothers today, I strongly agree. While some critics may argue the questioning could consume too much of doctors’ time—or that such a screening would pose a privacy issue—it’s important to understand that a mother’s mental state can have a huge effect on her own health, as well as her child’s immediate and future health.
Depression during pregnancy is a bigger problem than many people may realize. Depending on the geographical area, at least 15 to 20 percent of women report depressive symptoms while pregnant or postpartum. Poor mental health can lead to multiple issues, from inadequate nutrition, to obesity and Type 2 diabetes— all conditions that affect mothers and their children. Not to mention, depression involves unnecessary stress that could also lead to poor fetal growth.