OBJECTIVES: Postpartum depression often remains unaddressed. Screening in well-child care (WCC) may improve early detection, promote maternal recovery, and reduce effects on child development. We assessed the effectiveness of screening for postpartum depression in WCC compared with care as usual (CAU) on outcomes at mother and child levels.
METHODS: In a prospective, quasiexperimental, comparative design, mothers visiting Dutch WCC centers were exposed either to screening at 1, 3, and 6 months postpartum (n = 1843) or to CAU (n = 1246). Assessments were at 3 weeks (baseline), 9 months (the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview), and 12 months (the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Short-Form 12-Item Health Survey, the Maternal Self-Efficacy in the Nurturing Role questionnaire, and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire-Social Emotional) postpartum.
RESULTS: Significantly fewer mothers in the intervention group were depressed at 9 months postpartum compared with the CAU group (0.6% vs 2.5% for major depression). The adjusted odds ratio was 0.28 (95% confidence interval, 0.12 to 0.63; Cohen's d, 0.70). For minor and major depression, figures were 3.0% vs 8.4%, and the adjusted odds ratio was 0.40 (95% confidence interval, 0.27 to 0.58; Cohen's d, 0.51). For parenting, anxiety symptoms, and mental health functioning, the intervention resulted in effect sizes ranging from 0.23 to 0.27. The effect on the child's socioemotional development was negligible.
CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of screening for postpartum depression in WCC should be seriously considered given its positive effects on maternal mental health. The benefits of optimizing the trajectory after screening on maternal and child outcomes need further attention.