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Screening for Depression

According to a recently issued recommendation from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, all women should be screened for depression both during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Postpartum Depression

Maternal mental illness can include postpartum depression, but also covers a wide array of other conditions, such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. Studies show that between one in eight and one in five women develop symptoms of these conditions during and after childbirth.

Previously, doctors believed that these types of disorders began a few weeks after childbirth, but new findings reveal that in around fifty percent of cases, symptoms actually begin during pregnancy or at any time within the first year after a child is born. Researchers attribute the cause of maternal mental illness to a combination of genetic predisposition, stress, and hormone fluctuations.

In its recently issued recommendation, the United States Preventive Services Task Force stated that screening for depression in expectant mothers should be done by a trained health provider who has the ability to diagnose and treat the condition or refer the woman to someone who can. The task force recommended a screening method known as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is a ten-question survey that asks about sadness, worry, sleep patterns, and panic. Any woman who scores a ten or higher out of a possible thirty is considered to be at risk for depression, while those who score thirteen or higher are at risk for serious depression.

Postpartum Depression and Personal Injury

A physician’s failure to screen an expectant woman for depression could have devastating consequences for the health of both the mother and the child. For this reason, it is extremely important that doctors remain aware of new medical research that could impact suggested courses of treatment.

Unfortunately, some doctors negligently forego testing, which can expose their patients to harm. When the appropriate testing measures are well-established in the medical community, a physician may be held liable in a medical malpractice suit.

When a court decides the outcome of a medical malpractice suit, its determination will largely depend on an analysis of whether the doctor’s actions, including testing, diagnosis, and treatment, comport with accepted medical standards.

One important way to establish the medical standard in a particular community is to review academic medical literature. A condition like postpartum depression, which is known to affect new mothers, will have a substantial amount of evidentiary support. For example, the recommendations of the Preventive Services Task Force are created by an independent panel of experts, and their findings are systematically gathered and published in well-respected peer-reviewed journals as well as on the official website. If a physician fails to implement recommendations that are so widely published and well-supported, he or she may be found liable for substandard medical care.

Contact an Attorney Today

Conditions such as postpartum depression can affect the well-being of both mother and child. If your doctor failed to screen you for depression while you were pregnant, you may be able to recover damages for any complications you suffered as a result. Please contact a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., for a free consultation.

Contact us for your consultation (215) 567-3500