The negative consequences of untreated postpartum depression (PD) for both the woman and her infant are well established. The impact of maternal depression has led to recommendations on systematic perinatal depression screening. Unfortunately, large-scale initiatives on PD screening have found no benefit unless systems are in place to facilitate appropriate interventions for women who screen positive. Pediatric primary care has been a focus of efforts to support screening and management of PD because pediatric providers, unlike adult healthcare providers, have the most frequent contact with postpartum women through well-child visits. Well-child visits thus present an unparalleled opportunity to detect and intervene with PD. Literature reviews suggest that specific strategies are feasible within pediatric settings and could benefit both the woman and her child. In this article, we present a stepped care approach for screening and managing PD, integrating common elements found in existing pediatric-based models. A stepped care approach is ideal because PD is a heterogeneous condition, with a range of presentations and hence responsiveness to various interventions. This care pathway begins with systematic screening for depression symptoms, followed by a systematic risk assessment for women who screen positive and care management based on risk profiles and responsiveness. This approach allows pediatric providers to be optimally flexible and responsive in addressing the majority of women with PD within the context of the family-centered medical home to improve child well-being. Challenges to managing PD within pediatrics are discussed, including strategies for addressing them. Implications for research, policy, and practice are discussed.
Keywords: care pathway; maternal and child health; postpartum depression; well-baby care.