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Arch Womens Ment Health. 2002 Oct;5(2):79-82.

Screening women for postpartum depression at well baby visits: resistance encountered and recommendations.

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Postpartum major depression afflicts 10-15% of childbearing women and can have serious consequences. Unrecognized and therefore untreated episodes of postpartum major depression can predispose women to future depressive episodes, especially those related to other reproductive events. In the United States, women typically have one visit at six weeks postpartum with their obstetrician which is focused on physical recovery from delivery. Pediatricians typically see new mothers 4-6 times per year at well baby visits. Therefore, our objective is to test the utility of screening women for postpartum depression at each well baby visit over the course of the first postpartum year as compared with controls derived from clinical practice and chart review.


Subjects for this prospective study were recruited at their first well baby visit at the UCSD Primary Care Pediatric Clinic and interviewed by telephone. Subjects then were asked to complete the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) at intervals consistent with the timing of well baby visits. If scores on the EPDS or the BDI exceeded the thresholds (EPDS >or= 12 and BDI >or= 10) then subjects were assessed further with the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fourth Edition (SCID-DSM IV). If diagnosed with postpartum major depression, subjects were referred for appropriate treatment.


Out of 160 study packets distributed, only 7 women volunteered for the study, despite endorsement and presentation of the study by their pediatricians. Of those participants, five scored above threshold values at some point in the interval studied.


The difficulty in recruitment in this study highlights some of the problems encountered in clinical practice in terms of identifying and referring women with postpartum mental illnesses. We recommend further study be focused on how to attract potentially affected women while simultaneously addressing their fears of stigma. Since resistance also was encountered in other physicians, we recommend that educational efforts be aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness of postpartum mental illnesses in both the lay and professional spheres.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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