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One-hundred and eight women participated in a study which screened for depressive symptoms in the antenatal period. Of these women, 92 completed at least two further screenings during the postnatal year. The screening tool was the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, adapted for self-rating, and administered by a microcomputer. It was found that mean scores and the prevalence of depressive symptoms rose throughout pregnancy, with a sharp peak in the third trimester. Following delivery there was an abrupt fall in the prevalence of depressive symptoms, followed by another rise, with a postnatal peak at six months.
There were significant associations, at all levels of severity, between raised scores antenatally, and those developing postnatally in women completing the study. These were more marked in multiparae than primiparae. There was also a significant association between a past history of treated depression and the development of raised postnatal scores for depression.
The routine use of a microcomputer to administer questionnaires to patients has proved feasible within general practice.