Legal and ethical considerations: risks and benefits of postpartum depression screening at well-child visits.

Chaudron LH, Szilagyi PG, Campbell AT, Mounts KO, McInerny TK.
Pediatric professionals are being asked to provide an increasing array of services during well-child visits, including screening for psychosocial and family issues that may directly or indirectly affect their pediatric patients. One such service is routine screening for postpartum depression at pediatric visits. Postpartum depression is an example of a parental condition that can have serious negative effects for the child. Because it is a maternal condition, it raises a host of ethical and legal questions about the boundaries of pediatric care and the pediatric provider's responsibility and liability. In this article we discuss the ethical and legal considerations of, and outline the risks of screening or not screening for, postpartum depression at pediatric visits. We make recommendations for pediatric provider education and for the roles of national professional organizations in guiding the process of defining the boundaries of pediatric care.