Validity of depression rating scales during pregnancy and the postpartum period: impact of trimester and parity

J Psychiatr Res. 2011 Feb;45(2):213-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.05.017. Epub 2010 Jun 9.


The objective of the current study was to delineate the optimal cutpoints for depression rating scales during pregnancy and the postpartum period and to assess the perinatal factors influencing these scores. Women participating in prospective investigations of maternal mental illness were enrolled prior to 28 weeks gestation and followed through 6 months postpartum. At each visit, subjects completed self-rated depression scales--Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and clinician-rated scales--Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD(17) and HRSD(21)). These scores were compared to the SCID Mood Module for the presence of fulfilling diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode (MDE) during 6 perinatal windows: preconception; first trimester; 2nd trimester; 3rd trimester; early postpartum; and later postpartum. Optimal cutpoints were determined by maximizing the sum of each scale's sensitivity and specificity. Stratified ROC analyses determined the impact of previous pregnancy and comparison of initial to follow-up visits. A total of 534 women encompassing 640 pregnancies and 4025 follow-up visits were included. ROC analysis demonstrated that all 4 scales were highly predictive of MDE. The AUCs ranged from 0.857 to 0.971 and were all highly significant (p < .0001). Optimal cutpoints were higher at initial visits and for multigravidas and demonstrated more variability for the self-rated scales. These data indicate that both clinician-rated and self-rated scales can be effective tools in identifying perinatal episodes of major depression. However, the results also suggest that prior childbirth experiences and the use of scales longitudinally across the perinatal period influence optimal cutpoints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Pregnancy Trimesters / psychology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires