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Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Simple Questions Could Screen For Postpartum Depression

PUBLISHED ON 03/22/2017

Affecting 10 to 15 percent of women, postpartum depression isn’t something that can be totally prevented. And that makes being able to identify it all the more important. Typically, there’s no screening for PPD. But yet another study is showing how simple that screening could be. It’s not much more complicated than asking, “How was your day?"

Over the course of six years, UCLA psychiatrists assessed 343 pregnant women 60 days before their due dates and 60 days after delivery. While none of the women were suffering from depression when they conceived, they all reported a major depressive disorder at some point before pregnancy.

Researchers emerged with three major findings:

  1. Women with a history of depression actually had lower rates of postpartum depression—11 percent—than the 25 to 40 percent previously thought.
  2. Prescribing preventive antidepressants for these women did not decrease their risk for developing PPD.
  3. Clinical interviews with targeted questions were the best way to predict postpartum depression.

Wondering what sort of things those clinical interviews ask? Researchers inquired about insomnia, suicidal thoughts, and work activities and difficulties. It was the latter— questions about difficulties at work —that was the best indicator of PPD risk, helping doctors refer patients to psychiatrists for monitoring birth.

Add asking about work to the list of simple ways to screen for postpartum depression. A 2015 study out of Saint Louis University found success from texting at-risk moms motivational and informational messages once a day, offering a followup call if needed.