Implementation of universal screening for depression during pregnancy: feasibility and impact on obstetric care

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Abstract

Background

Given the growing policy and public health interest in the identification and treatment of depression in pregnancy, an understanding of the feasibility, challenges, and implications for resource utilization of the implementation of a universal screening program is crucial.

Objective

The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility of large-scale implementation of universal screening for depression in pregnancy and during the postpartum period with the use of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

Study Design

A prospective observational cohort study was conducted from July 2010 to June 2014 at a large academic medical center. Pregnant women were screened at 24-28 weeks gestation and again 6 weeks postpartum. An Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale score of ≥12 was the cutoff for referral to mental health services for diagnostic evaluation and treatment.

Results

Among 8985 women who were enrolled in prenatal care at the participating sites, 8840 women (98%) were screened for depression antepartum, and 7780 women (86%) were screened postpartum. A total of 576 women (6.5%) screened positive for probable depression; of these, 69% screened positive antepartum, and 31% screened positive postpartum (P < .01). All women who screened positive were referred for an evaluation by a mental health professional; 79% of the women were evaluated, which was more common antepartum than postpartum (83% vs 71%; P < .01). One hundred twenty-one women (21%) were not evaluated further after a positive screen; primary reasons included declining a mental health evaluation (30%) or transferring obstetric care (12%). Among women who underwent a mental health evaluation, 67% were diagnosed with major depression; 37% were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder; 28% were diagnosed concurrently with major depression and an anxiety disorder; 76% were diagnosed with either depression or anxiety, and 35% were treated with an antidepressant medication, which was more frequent during the postpartum period than during the antepartum period (54% vs 28%; P < .001). After adjustment for maternal age, parity, race, and household income, women who screened positive antepartum were significantly more likely to link to mental health services compared with women who screened positive postpartum (adjusted odds ratio, 2.09; 95% CI, 1.24–3.24; P = .001).

Conclusion

This study demonstrates the feasibility of universal depression screening during both the antepartum and postpartum periods with the use of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale as an initial screen followed by mental health referral for further diagnostic evaluation and treatment. The population of women who screened positive and who accepted additional services differed at the 2 time points, which reinforces the utility of screening during both the antepartum and postpartum periods. Although universal screening for depression is feasible, further study of the barriers to mental health evaluation and treatment and the impact of treatment on obstetric outcomes are needed.

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