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Postpartum depression screening: are we doing a competent job?
  1. Sathyanarayan Sudhanthar,
  2. Zile-e-huma Sheikh,
  3. Kripa Thakur
  1. Pediatrics and Human Development, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sathyanarayan Sudhanthar; sudhanth{at}


Postpartum depression (PPD) is one of the most common and severe postpartum morbidity, affecting 10%–20% of mothers within the first year of childbirth. The adverse effects of PPD, namely, prevention of mother-baby bonding and early cessation of breastfeeding, adversely affects infant growth and brain development. Studies have found that up to 50% of women with PPD go undiagnosed. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations, only a small percentage of paediatricians are currently screening for PPD. This project aimed to improve PPD screening using a validated tool to 75% in a primary care inner-city clinic serving a predominantly underserved population as per AAP recommendations. Baseline data for 40 charts of 2-month-old and 4-month-old well-child visits showed no documentation of PPD screening. The screening tool used for this project was the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS), which is a validated 10-item screening questionnaire for PPD. Three Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycles were implemented involving educational strategies, system-based practice improvement and stakeholder participation. Improvement seen after PDSA cycle 1 was minimal. At the end of cycle 2, 16/50 (33%) charts had documentation of screening using EPDS. At the end of cycle 3, 33/40 (82%) charts had EPDS documentation, an increase of 49% from cycle 2. There were eight in total positive PPD screenings between cycles 2 and 3. These patients were provided counselling support through a social worker and referral services through the local community mental health organisation. We achieved more than our 75% target goal for PPD screening implementation at the residency clinic, thereby increasing residents’ awareness of PPD and the importance of PPD screening. Poststudy follow-up shows that screening was maintained at a higher rate but never reached 100%.

  • quality improvement
  • healthcare quality improvement
  • women's health
  • ambulatory care
  • mental health

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  • Contributors SS planned the study and created a first draft of the manuscript. ZS was involved in the operational part of the project including collecting data over the three cycles and involved in the strategy, design and result parts of the manuscript. SS and KT were involved in designing the project and overall manuscript. All authors agree on the final version of the manuscript draft.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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