Background: Long-term follow-up studies are required to better understand the extent of the effectiveness of early detection programs for perinatal depression. We followed up participants in such a program to investigate the long-term depression, treatment and relationship outcomes of mothers originally identified as 'probably depressed' (screened positive).
Methods: At 2 years postpartum all participants who had 'screened positive' (N=159) and a random sample of participants who had 'screened negative' were invited to participate in a mailed survey. Measures included: current mood; coping; access to treatment; quality of partner relationship; and mother-infant bonding.
Results: Mothers originally detected as probably depressed (n=98) fared significantly worse than 'screened negative' mothers (n=101) both in terms of their higher mean depression scores (EPDS: Ms=11.0 vs. 6.4) and greater proportions categorised as probably depressed at 2 years postpartum (40% vs. 11% respectively, p<.001, phi=.33). Elevated depression symptoms at 2 years postpartum were associated with poorer partner relationships and mother-infant bonding. Moreover, there appears to be a double dose effect for women who screen positive on two occasions. Thirty-seven percent of depressed mothers did not take up treatment, frequently citing a preference for using their own resources.
Limitations: Limitations include the use of self-report measures to assess depression symptoms and mother-infant bonding. Treatment data was collected retrospectively.
Conclusions: Despite being offered treatment options, a substantial proportion of women who screened positive had poor long-term mental health and relationship outcomes. This paper discusses some of the implications for perinatal early detection and treatment programs.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.