Long-term outcomes of participants in a perinatal depression early detection program

J Affect Disord. 2011 Mar;129(1-3):94-103. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.07.035. Epub 2010 Aug 30.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Data Collection
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mass Screening
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult