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Experts recommend depression screening for pregnant women, new moms

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SALT LAKE CITY– All adults should be screened for depression. That’s one of the recommendations from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force.

This updates the 2009 recommendation that called for screening only if mental health services were in place. For the first time, the panel of experts are including pregnant women and new moms in this group.

Jodi Nichol enjoys spending time with her 3-year-old son Will. But when he was born something didn’t feel right.

“I had no interest in holding him, I was angry, sad and very anxious,” Nichol said.

The mother of three told her doctor she was depressed.

“He looked concerned and he gave me a prescription but that was it, there was no follow up,” Nichol said.

Today, Nichol would fall under the new recommendation from the U.S. Preventative Services. They recommend all adults should be screened for depression at least once, including pregnant women and new moms.

“One thing we know is that probably not even half of providers actually screen,” said Dr. Gwen Latendresse, University of Utah Professor at the College of Nursing.

Latendresse said doctors don’t always have time to screen and may not know what to do if a patient screens positive. The task force doesn’t give a specific method of screening, but some doctors give patients a questionnaire.

“It’s nine questions that are quick questions like, ‘in the past week, or two weeks, how often have you felt hopeless, depressed, down, sad?’” Latendresse quoted the questionnaire.

Latendresse is pushing for a universal system of screening where the patient would be held accountable.

“They’re offered an electronic tablet to complete it and that information can seamlessly be inserted into their medical records,” Latenderesse said.

Nichol runs a support group for women struggling with depression. Many are too afraid to admit they have a problem. But she said with preventative screening, and valuable resources in place, the disease is treatable.

“Even if loved ones recognize the symptoms those loved ones can reach out and find help,” Nichol said.

For a look at the study, visit http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2484345