Accuracy of depression screening tools for identifying postpartum depression among urban mothers

Linda H. Chaudron, Peter G. Szilagyi, Wan Tang, Elizabeth Anson, Nancy L. Talbot, Holly I M Wadkins, Xin Tu, Katherine L. Wisner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The goal was to describe the accuracy of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Beck Depression Inventory II (BDIII), and Postpartum Depression Screening Scale (PDSS) in identifying major depressive disorder (MDD) or minor depressive disorder (MnDD) among low-income, urban mothers attending well-child care (WCC) visits during the postpartum year. METHODS: Mothers (N = 198) attending WCC visits with their infants 0 to 14 months of age completed a psychiatric diagnostic interview (standard method) and 3 screening tools. The sensitivities and specificities of each screening tool were calculated in comparison with diagnoses of MDD or MDD/MnDD. Receiver operating characteristic curves were calculated and the areas under the curves for each tool were compared to assess accuracy for the entire sample (representing the postpartum year) and subsamples (representing early, middle, and late postpartum time frames). Optimal cutoff scores were calculated. RESULTS: At some point between 2 weeks and 14 months after delivery, 56% of mothers met criteria for either MDD (37%) or MnDD (19%). When used as continuous measures, all scales performed equally well (areas under the curves of ≥0.8). With traditional cutoff scores, the measures did not perform at the expected levels of sensitivity and specificity. Optimal cutoff scores for the BDI-II (≥14 for MDD and ≥11 for MDD/MnDD) and EPDS (≥9 for MDD and ≥7 for MDD/MnDD) were lower than currently recommended. For the PDSS, the optimal cutoff score was consistent with current guidelines for MDD (≥80) but higher than recommended for MDD/MnDD (≥77). CONCLUSIONS: Large proportions of low-income, urban mothers attending WCC visits experience MDD or MnDD during the postpartum year. The EPDS, BDI-II, and PDSS have high accuracy in identifying depression, but cutoff scores may need to be altered to identify depression more accurately among urban, low-income mothers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e609-e617
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Maternal depression
  • Postpartum depression
  • Screening tools
  • Validity
  • Well-child care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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