Objective: To develop a department-based program to identify and treat women at risk for perinatal depression.
Methods: Private and employed physician groups were engaged to conduct antepartum maternal depression screening using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. A comprehensive program was established to ensure that patients identified as being at risk would receive appropriate care. The program 1) developed a network of existing community mental health providers to accommodate screen-positive referrals, 2) created a 24/7 hotline staffed by mental health workers to respond to urgent/emergent patient needs, 3) provided nursing and physician education via a comprehensive curriculum on perinatal depression, and 4) facilitated outpatient depression screening that included a centralized scoring and referral system.
Results: A total of 4,322 women completed 4,558 screens during the initial 24 months (June 2003-May 2005). Although initial uptake of the screening program was gradual, all 20 departmental obstetric practices were screening their patients at the end of the first year. Depression screening was accomplished between 28-32 weeks of gestation, and postpartum screening (during the 6-week postpartum visit) was subsequently added. Overall, 11.1% of women screened positive in the antenatal period, and 7.3% screened positive in the postnatal period. Three hundred three women were referred for evaluation and care.
Conclusion: Department-based, perinatal depression screening was feasible when individual physician practices were not required to develop the infrastructure necessary to respond to at-risk patients. We believe that the provision of clinical safety nets (mental health provider network and the hotline) were essential to the universal acceptance of this program by practitioners.
Level of evidence: III.