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Pediatrics. 2009 Jun;123(6):e982-8. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-1160.

Screening for postpartum depression at well-child visits: is once enough during the first 6 months of life?

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Aurora, CO 80045, USA. jeanelle.sheeder@ucdenver.edu



Screening for maternal depression is gaining acceptance as a standard component of well-child care. We tested the feasibility of this policy and determined the prevalence and incidence of maternal depression at well-child visits during the first 6 months of life.


Providers in an adolescent-oriented maternity program were cued electronically, when they opened the electronic medical records of 0- to 6-month-old infants to conduct well-child visits, to ask the mothers to complete the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale. Incident cases represented mothers who crossed the referral threshold (score of > or =10) after the first screening.


Mothers usually brought their infants to the clinic, and none refused screening. Providers could act on 99% of the 418 screening cues; they administered the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale 98% of the time and always referred mothers with scores of > or =10. Overall, 20% of the mothers scored > or =10. Scores were unstable at < or =3 postpartum weeks (kappa = 0.2). Thereafter, the prevalence and incidence of scores of > or =10 decreased from 16.5% at 2 months to 10.3% and 5.7%, respectively, at 4 months. Prevalence increased to 18.5% at the 6-month visit, and incidence decreased to 1.9%. Repeat screening detected only 2 mothers (5.7%) with scores of > or =10.


Electronic cueing improved compliance with the detection and referral phases of screening for maternal depression at well-child visits. Screening 2 months after delivery detects most mothers who become depressed during the first 6 postpartum months, and screening at the 6-month well-child visit is preferable to screening at the 4-month visit.

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