All women should be screened for postpartum depression after birth, doctors say

The type of clinic or doctor does not make much difference, researchers write, as long as screening is conducted several times during the postpartum period.

By Stephen Feller

PITTSBURGH, May 9 (UPI) -- New research suggests women with postpartum depression are not getting the care they need, either because they have not been screened or are not screened often enough.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh suggest women should be screened several times throughout the year after birth to distinguish between the normal post-birth range of emotions most women experience and a larger problem, according to a press release.


Although about 80 percent of women experience some level of "maternity blues" after giving birth, often including short episodes of mood swings, tearfulness and mild depression within the first week delivery, 14.5 percent experience new episodes of longer-term depression either during pregnancy or in the months afterward.

Telling the difference between the two -- postpartum depression strikes about three million women per year -- is a matter of initial screening that ranges from a few minutes to a total of two questions, and later follow-up, where researchers say many cases are missed.

Previous research has suggested there are biomarkers for the condition that can predict postpartum depression in women before birth, but researchers in a large study launched in March say they've proven to be unreliable.


"Postpartum depression remains vastly under-diagnosed and under-treated, despite widespread consensus regarding its prevalence and potentially devastating consequences," University of Pittsburgh researchers write in the study, published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry.

For the study, researchers reviewed 61 studies conducted since 1987, reviewing methods and timing for postpartum depression screening. They report the most widely used method for screening is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, with the data showing screening should start soon after delivery and be repeated at several points during the six-week postpartum period.

Data from the studies did not show what type of doctor's office or clinic screening is done, or whether a psychiatric setting or psychiatrist should do the screening, which future research may look at, researchers said.

"Primary care, pediatric, and obstetric settings are all viable locations for screening, but are ineffective without follow-up mental health evaluations," the researchers write.

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