Postpartum depression, which affects 10-15% of childbearing women, can have detrimental effects on child development. Despite clinicians’ need to understand the course of postpartum depressive symptoms to incorporate optimal screening protocols, little is known about changes in symptoms across the postpartum year, particularly among low-income, minority women.
To describe the incidence, continuation, and resolution of symptoms during the postpartum year in urban women experiencing high depressive symptom levels at one or more well childcare visits.
As part of a prior study of postpartum depressive symptoms, demographic data and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) were systematically collected from pediatric records of a clinic that routinely screens mothers with the EPDS at each first year well childcare visit. To explore the course of depressive symptoms throughout the postpartum year in this pilot study, we included only data from the records that had at least one EPDS ≥ 10 (N=100), a score indicating a high likelihood for clinically significant depressive symptoms.
Among 49 women who completed the EPDS at least once before 3 months and between 3 and 11 months postpartum, 33% had high symptom levels throughout the year, 41% improved after the first three months, and 26% developed high symptom levels after the first three months.
Postpartum depressive symptoms persist in many women throughout the postpartum year. Routine screening throughout the year might better identify both a subgroup of women who develop new symptoms during the year, as well as the women whose symptoms persist.
Keywords: postpartum depression, maternal depression, screening