Three Questions Can Screen for Postnatal Depression

September 3, 2008

Postpartum depression can be reliably diagnosed using just three questions in a primary care setting, according to the results of a study published online Sept. 1 in Pediatrics.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Postpartum depression can be reliably diagnosed using just three questions in a primary care setting, according to the results of a study published online Sept. 1 in Pediatrics.

Karolyn Kabir, M.D., of the University of Colorado in Denver, and colleagues conducted a study of 199 participants in an adolescent-oriented maternity program. The participants, aged 14 to 26 years, were assessed for postpartum depression using three subscales of the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS), comprising three, seven and two questions, respectively. The results were assessed by comparing them with a score of 10 or more on the full, 10-item EPDS.

In all, 41 mothers (20.6 percent) were referred for evaluation using the full 10-item scale having met referral criteria using one of the brief subscales. Of the three subscales, the three-question EPDS (EPDS-3) subscale was the most reliable, with 95 percent sensitivity and 98 percent negative predictive value.

"Health care providers who do not have time to administer the full EPDS should consider incorporating the EPDS-3 into their health maintenance visits with new mothers," the authors write. "Online scoring with links to referral options where scores indicate the need for additional evaluation would make screening for postpartum and maternal depression difficult to resist."

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