Screening for and detection of depression, panic disorder, and PTSD in public-sector obstetric clinics

Psychiatr Serv. 2004 Apr;55(4):407-14. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: This study assessed rates of detection and treatment of minor and major depressive disorder, panic disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder among pregnant women receiving prenatal care at public-sector obstetric clinics.

Methods: Interviewers systematically screened 387 women attending prenatal visits. The screening process was initiated before each woman's examination. After the visit, patients were asked whether their clinician recognized a mood or anxiety disorder. Medical records were reviewed for documentation of psychiatric illness and treatment.

Results: Only 26 percent of patients who screened positive for a psychiatric illness were recognized as having a mood or anxiety disorder by their health care provider. Moreover, clinicians detected disorders among only 12 percent of patients who showed evidence of suicidal ideation. Women with panic disorder or a lifetime history of domestic violence were more likely to be identified as having a psychiatric illness by a health care provider at some point before or during pregnancy. All women who screened positive for panic disorder had received or were currently receiving mental health treatment outside the prenatal visit, whereas 26 percent of women who screened positive for major or minor depression had received or were currently receiving treatment outside the prenatal visit.

Conclusions: Detection rates for depressive disorders in obstetric settings are lower than those for panic disorder and lower than those reported in other primary care settings. Consequently, a large proportion of pregnant women continue to suffer silently with depression throughout their pregnancy. Given that depressive disorders among perinatal women are highly prevalent and may have profound impact on infants and children, more work is needed to enhance detection and referral.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Health Centers*
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Obstetrics / organization & administration*
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Public Health Administration*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Women's Health Services / statistics & numerical data