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A call for depression screening for pregnant women, moms

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In an opinion piece (subscription required) appearing in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is calling for routine screening of depression for women during and after pregnancy. As noted by MedPage Today, the authors did not make firm recommendations about certain aspects of screening - such as who should do the screening, which tools should be used, and how often women should be screened - but they were clear about the importance of monitoring new moms and moms-to-be.

"Perinatal depression, postpartum depression, have the potential to be devastating - not only for the patient, but for her offspring both during the pregnancy and after the pregnancy," [ACOG president Gerald F. Joseph, Jr., MD,] said in an interview.

Infants of depressed mothers, for example, may be set back in their psychologic, cognitive, neurologic, and motor development, the committee wrote.

Treating the mother's depression can actually resolve a child's mental and behavioral disorders, they added.

Depression among pregnant women and moms has gotten more attention lately, and the health-reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate last month actually contains a provision that addresses the issue. The so-called MOTHERS Act wouldn't mandate universal screening, but would provide for research, education and public-service announcements about postpartum depression. Given the uncertainty over health care in Washington, it's hard to say what will happen with this portion of the legislation - but, if not ultimately enacted into law, the bill could always be reintroduced later.

Previously: Depression in pregnancy: To treat or not to treat?
Photo by Thomas van Ardenne

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