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The Mental Health Characteristics of Pregnant Women With Depressive Symptoms Identified by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale

Linda B. Lydsdottir, MSc; Louise M. Howard, PhD; Halldora Olafsdottir, MD; Marga Thome, PhD; Petur Tyrfingsson, Cand Psych; and Jon F. Sigurdsson, PhD

Published: February 4, 2014

Article Abstract

Objective: Few studies are available on the effectiveness of screening tools such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) in pregnancy or the extent to which such tools may identify women with mental disorders other than depression. We therefore aimed to investigate the mental health characteristics of pregnant women who screen positive on the EPDS.

Method: Consecutive women receiving antenatal care in primary care clinics (from November 2006 to July 2011) were invited to complete the EPDS in week 16 of pregnancy. All women who scored above 11 (screen positive) on the EPDS and randomly selected women who scored below 12 (screen negative) were invited to participate in a psychiatric diagnostic interview.

Results: 2,411 women completed the EPDS. Two hundred thirty-three women (9.7%) were screened positive in week 16, of whom 153 (66%) agreed to a psychiatric diagnostic interview. Forty-eight women (31.4%) were diagnosed with major depressive disorder according to DSM-IV criteria, 20 (13.1%) with bipolar disorder, 93 (60.8%) with anxiety disorders (including 27 [17.6%] with obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD]), 8 (5.2%) with dysthymia, 18 (11.8%) with somatoform disorder, 3 (2%) with an eating disorder, and 7 (4.6%) with current substance abuse. Women who screened positive were significantly more likely to have psychosocial risk factors, including being unemployed (χ21 = 23.37, P ≤ .001), lower educational status (χ21 = 31.68, P ≤ .001), and a history of partner violence (χ21 = 10.30, P ≤ 001), compared with the women who screened negative.

Conclusions: Use of the EPDS early in the second trimester of pregnancy identifies a substantial number of women with potentially serious mental disorders other than depression, including bipolar disorder, OCD, and eating disorders. A comprehensive clinical assessment is therefore necessary following use of the EPDS during pregnancy to ensure that women who screen positive receive appropriate mental health management.

J Clin Psychiatry

Submitted: June 19, 2013; accepted October 30, 2013.

Online ahead of print: February 4, 2014 (doi:10.4088/JCP.13m08646).

Corresponding author: Linda B. Lydsdottir, MSc, Mental Health Services, Landspitali-The National University Hospital of Iceland, Hringbraut, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland (

Volume: 75

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