News from the FDA/CDC

Many clinicians still not asking about postpartum depression


Health care providers fail to ask one in five prenatal patients and one in eight postpartum patients about depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the prevalence of screening has risen in recent years, many women could be suffering in silence.

“[U]ndetected and untreated perinatal depression can have negative health consequences for the mothers and their babies,” said coauthor Jean Y. Ko, PhD, from the division of reproductive health at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Dr. Ko and colleagues reported their findings in an article published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The researchers analyzed self-reported data on postpartum depressive symptoms (PDS) collected in 2018 by the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). Participants were stratified on the basis of location and maternal and infant characteristics, including age, race/ethnicity, and education level. Women who had recently given birth to one or more live infants answered questions about whether they had been screened by health care providers for depression during perinatal visits.

The prevalence of PDS among women from 31 PRAMS sites was 13.2%. States with lower prevalences included Illinois (9.7%), Massachusetts (10.3%), and Wisconsin (10.5%); states with higher prevalences included Mississippi (23.5%), West Virginia (19.4%), and Michigan (16.4%).

Some groups were at higher risk for PDS than others. The prevalence was greater than 20% among women who were aged 19 years or younger, were of American Indian or Alaska Native ethnicity, smoked during the perinatal period, experienced perinatal depression, or whose infant died after birth.

Depressive symptoms were also more common among women who received assistance from the Women, Infants, and Children program; were Medicaid beneficiaries at the time of delivery; smoked cigarettes during the last trimester of pregnancy; breastfed their infants for fewer than 8 weeks; or had experienced intimate partner violence while pregnant or before.

Small rise in screening

Overall, 79.1% of women said a health care provider had inquired about depression during the prenatal period. Prenatal screening for depression was lowest in Puerto Rico (50.7%), Mississippi (69.4%), Utah (69.5%), and Kentucky (69.5%) and was highest in Alaska (90.7%), Minnesota (90.6%), and Maine (90.5%).

Among 22 continuously reporting sites, the prevalence of prenatal depression screening rose significantly from 76.2% in 2016 to 79.3% in 2018 (P < .05) .

“It is unclear what might account for this small increase,” Dr. Ko said. “There may be additional factors, such as women may be becoming more comfortable reporting symptoms of depression. With continued awareness about the need to screen every pregnant and postpartum woman for depression, we can expect things to continue to improve.”

Overall, 90.1% of respondents reported a postpartum visit; of those, 87.4% said a health care provider had asked about depression during that visit.

Screening during the postpartum period was highest in Vermont (96.2%), Minnesota (95.9%), and Maine (95.5%) and was lowest in Puerto Rico (50.7%), New York City (73.1%), and Louisiana (75.0%).

Among the 22 sites that reported continuously, the prevalence of screening for postpartum depression rose significantly from 84.1% to 88.0% (P < .05), “with an average annual percentage point increase of 1.8%,” the authors wrote.


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