Improving discrimination in antepartum depression screening using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale

J Affect Disord. 2017 May;214:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.01.042. Epub 2017 Feb 24.


Background: Universal screening of pregnant women for postpartum depression has recently been recommended; however, optimal application of depression screening tools in stratifying risk has not been defined. The current study examines new approaches to improve the ability of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to stratify risk for postpartum depression, including alternate cut points, use of a continuous measure, and incorporation of other putative risk factors.

Methods: An observational cohort study of 4939 women screened both antepartum and postpartum with a negative EPDS screen antepartum(i.e. EPDS<10). The primary outcome was a probable postpartum major depressive episode(EPDS cut-off ≥10). Area under the receiver operating characteristics curve(AUC), sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values were calculated.

Results: 287 women(5.8%) screened positive for postpartum depression. An antepartum EPDS cut-off<5 optimally identified women with a low risk of postpartum depression with a negative predictive value of 97.6%; however, overall discrimination was modest(AUC 0.66, 95%CI: 0.64-0.69); sensitivity was 78.7%, and specificity was 53.8%, and the positive predictive value was low at 9.5%. The negative predictive values were similar(>95%) at all antepartum EPDS cut-off values from 4 to 8. Discrimination was improved(AUC ranging from 0.70 to 0.73) when the antepartum EPDS was combined with a prior history of major depressive disorder before pregnancy.

Limitations: An inability to assess EPDS subscales and a relatively low prevalence of depression in this cohort.

Conclusions: Though an antepartum EPDS cut-off score <5 yielded the greatest discrimination identifying women at low risk for postpartum depression, the negative predictive value was insufficient to substitute for postpartum screening.

Keywords: Depression; EPDS; Postpartum; Prediction; Pregnancy; Screening.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis*
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity