A Call to Action: Screening Fathers for Perinatal Depression

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Walsh, T., Davis, R. & Garfield, C.
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Journal Article
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In early 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement recognizing that “maternal depression affects the whole family” and urging pediatric providers to “incorporate recognition and management of perinatal depression into pediatric practice.” Soon after, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new recommendations on interventions to prevent perinatal depression. The convergence of these 2 statements from nationally recognized bodies of experts in evidence-based medicine underscores the urgency of a heightened focus on screening and making referrals for perinatal depression in pediatric practice. The new recommendations do not go far enough and risk being out of touch with contemporary American families. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force evidence review and recommendations are focused exclusively on interventions to prevent maternal depression. The AAP statement acknowledged paternal postpartum depression (PPD) as an established clinical problem yet called for pediatricians to screen solely mothers at the 1-, 2-, 4-, and 6-month well-child visits and “consider screening the partner as well” at the 6-month visit. We believe it is inadequate to treat the recognition and management of paternal depression as extra or optional. To promote optimal outcomes for children, pediatric providers must assess the mental health and adjustment to parenting of all new parents, regardless of gender or marital status, and make appropriate referrals for needed care.

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