Last month, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released its recommendation that clinicians screen the general adult population, including pregnant and postpartum women, for depression. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans have to cover preventive services with no extra fees. The Task Force’s decision means women should now expect their providers to ask about depression during routine exams, and to offer options for help if they’re experiencing depression. The Task Force’s recommendations are final, and should take effect immediately. NWHN encourages women to speak up if depression isn’t addressed during a well-woman or pre-natal exam.
What is depression screening? Unlike screening for breast cancer, or sexually transmitted infections, which are also covered with no copays, there’s no laboratory test that can diagnose depression. Instead, screening for depression involves asking a series of questions about sleep, appetite, energy, ability to concentrate, and mood. The Task Force review found convincing evidence that these simple screening tools are accurate and reliable.
The Task Force paid special attention to the needs of women who have recently given birth or are currently pregnant. Approximately 13% of women experience depression during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. The Task Force looked at research involving these women, and found that treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) improves clinical outcomes in pregnant and postpartum women with depression. Talk therapy, including CBT, is an important alternative for women who do not want to, or cannot, take anti-depressants while they are pregnant or breast feeding.
Depression has a huge impact on society, and this is the first time the Task Force has recommended that all adults, including pregnant and postpartum women, be screened for depression. NWHN supports the Task Force's recommendation and encourages women to speak with their providers about this important issue.
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