Despite growing awareness of postpartum depression (PPD), screening is not yet standard care and evidence that screening produces improved health outcomes remains limited.Objectives:
To examine mental health treatment rates at 3 and 4 months postpartum for women who were identified with PPD symptoms at 2 to 4 weeks after delivery.Methods:
A secondary analysis of data from a mother-infant intervention study for women with PPD symptoms was conducted. Postpartum women were screened for PPD symptoms; women with positive PPD screens were assessed at 2, 3, and 4 months postpartum. Research nurses monitored symptoms and encouraged and assisted women who experienced moderate to severe PPD symptoms to seek evaluation and mental health referral from their primary care providers.Results:
From the screening of a community-based population of 1,215 postpartum women, 122 women identified as having PPD enrolled in the clinical trial and 117 participated in all assessments. At 3 and 4 months postpartum, only 14 women (12%) received psychotherapy and fewer received psychopharmacologic treatment. In comparison to women with low PPD symptoms, significantly more women with high PPD symptoms were in therapy at 3 and 4 months.Discussion:
The inadequacy of treatment rates among a sample of at-risk women raises grave concern. Possible barriers to referral and treatment include clinician and healthcare system, third-party payment, and personal factors. Evaluating health outcomes from PPD screening and testing approaches designed to increase treatment participation are warranted.