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What Is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a screening tool that mental health professionals may use to determine a woman’s risk of postnatal depression. Postnatal depression, also commonly referred to as postpartum depression, is a mental health condition that may occur in women who have recently given birth and can cause symptoms such as unexplained irritability, sadness, or feelings of hopelessness. If left untreated, postnatal depression may result in a woman harming herself or her child. The screening scale is a series of 10 questions that may help a doctor diagnose postnatal depression in a woman and allow her to receive treatment before the condition become severe.

Certain risk factors present in a new mother may make a psychologist more likely to initiate the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Women who give birth under the age of 20, had an unplanned pregnancy, have financial or relationship problems, or suffer from preexisting mental health conditions or substance abuse tend to be more likely to suffer from postnatal depression. If a woman fits into any of these categories, it is recommended to use the scale to screen for postnatal depression, even if she does not necessarily display symptoms yet.

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The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale consists of 10 questions with multiple choice answers from which to select. The answers to the questions are meant to be applicable to the woman’s feelings in the last seven days. For example, the questionnaire asks the woman about the extent of her feelings of sadness, how often she is overwhelmed, and whether she is able to express happiness. The final question asks if she has had thoughts of harming herself in the past week and is generally considered the most important question. If a woman indicates that she has wanted to harm herself, even if her other answers don’t necessarily indicate depression, a doctor will usually implement his or her professional judgment and prescribe immediate treatment.

Each of the 10 questions on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale have four possible choices which each carry a corresponding numerical value from zero to three for scoring. Responses that indicate a low possibility of depression have a lower number score assigned to them, while the responses that indicate the highest depression possibility are assigned the higher score number. The maximum score for the scale is 30; however, further examination for depression and treatment is often recommended for women who score a 10 or above. The treatment for women determined to suffer from postnatal depression is often a combination of antidepressant medications and counseling.

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