Postpartum depression screening in the pediatric emergency department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2014 Nov;30(11):788-92. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000260.


Purpose: This study aimed to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for postpartum depression (PPD) in mothers of young infants presenting to the pediatric emergency department (PED).

Methods: This was a prospective, observational study to evaluate the prevalence of PPD in a sample of mothers of young infants presenting to the PED of an urban, tertiary care children's hospital. A convenience sample of mothers with infants younger than 4 months who presented to our urban, tertiary care PED was surveyed in English or Spanish using the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS). Demographic information was collected. Members of the study team evaluated and counseled those mothers who screened positive on the EPDS (score ≥ 10). During the PED visit, social work consultation and mental health resources were also offered. Resource use and additional mental health needs were assessed, with a follow-up telephone call 4 weeks after the initial ED presentation. Performance characteristics of a brief, 3-question anxiety subset were compared using a positive EPDS as the reference standard. All study participants were given information about community resources for new mothers. Data were analyzed using t test or Χ (with Yates correction as necessary).

Results: A convenience sample of 200 mothers was enrolled; 31 (16%) of these mothers had an EPDS score of 10 or greater. Mothers had a mean age of 27 years (range, 15-41); 45% were first-time mothers; 40% got pediatric care in a state-funded clinic; and 10% were Spanish speaking. There were no statistically significant differences in baseline demographic characteristics of mothers with and without PPD. Mothers who were depressed were more likely to report that they either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement "I feel that my child is always fussy" (P = 0.004). The anxiety subscale produced a sensitivity of 0.87 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.69-0.96), a specificity of 0.70 (95% CI, 0.63-0.77), and a negative predictive value of 0.97 (95% CI, 0.91-0.99). The majority of participants (92%) reached at follow-up reported improvement in their mood. Fifty percent reported discussing their mood with someone else, although only 33% of these women did so with a medical provider.

Conclusions: Postpartum depression affects a significant number of mothers of young infants who present to the PED for medical care. There are no clear demographic identifiers of these at-risk mothers, making universal screening an advisable approach. Capture of at-risk mothers during PED visits may accelerate connection with mental health resources. Anxiety seems to be a significant contributor. Mothers with PPD often characterize their infants to have a "fussy" temperament. The most appropriate referral for these women in this setting merits further investigation.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis*
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult