Introduction: Whether routine screening for depression among nonpregnant women of reproductive age improves identification and treatment of the disorder remains unclear. We conducted a systematic review of the literature to address 5 key questions specific to this population: 1) What are the current national clinical practice recommendations and guidelines for depression screening; 2) What are the prevalence and predictors of screening; 3) How well do screening tools detect depression; 4) Does screening lead to diagnosis, treatment, and improved outcomes; and 5) What are the most effective treatment methods?
Methods: We searched bibliographic databases for full-length articles published in English between 1990 and 2010 that addressed at least 1 of our key questions.
Results: We identified 5 clinical practice guidelines pertinent to question 1, and 12 systematic reviews or post-hoc analyses of pooled data that addressed questions 3 through 5. No systematic reviews addressed question 2; however, we identified 4 individual studies addressing this question. Current guidelines do not recommend universal screening for depression in adults, unless staff supports are in place to diagnose, treat, and follow up patients. Reported screening rates ranged from 33% to 84% among women. Several validated screening tools for depression exist; however, their performance among this population is unknown. Screening in high-risk populations may improve the patient's receipt of diagnosis and treatment. Effective treatments include exercise, psychotherapy, and pharmacotherapy.
Conclusion: More research is needed on whether routine screening for depression among women of reproductive age increases diagnosis and treatment of depression, improves preconception health, and reduces adverse outcomes.