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Assessment, Mood disorders, Postpartum depression, Screening for depressive symptoms.



  1. Mitchell, Anne Marie PhD, CNM, WHNP
  2. Mittelstaedt, Mary E. PhD, RNC
  3. Schott-Baer, Darlene PhD


Purpose: This study evaluated the reliability of screening women for symptoms of postpartum depression by a telephone assessment after hospital discharge.


Study Design: Correlational design with a convenience sample of women from a Midwestern community hospital.


Methods: One hundred and twenty-six women agreed to participate prior to hospital discharge and 106 women were in the final sample (response rate 84%). Telephone contact was made 8 weeks after discharge, when the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale was administered.


Results: Twenty-seven percent of the women screened had scores indicating moderate-to-severe depression (score range 60-128). Reliability coefficients were calculated on the data for the short and long forms of the PDSS, as well as for all seven subscales (alpha coefficients were .72 and .94, respectively, for the short- and long-form totals). Subscale scores for the 35-item form were as follows: sleeping/eating disturbances .80, anxiety/insecurity .77, emotional lability .82, mental confusion .80, loss of self .87, guilt/shame .82, and contemplating harming oneself.90. The correlation between the short-form total and the long-form total was r = .91 (p = < 01.) Studies using the PDSS as an in-person instrument were compared with scores for telephone screening, and the overall mean scores were similar.


Conclusion: Telephone screening is a reliable method to screen for postpartum symptomatology that may occur later than the 6-week office visit. Women who are at risk, especially those who have a history of treatment for depression, current treatment for depression or increased anxiety, should be screened for postpartum depression symptomatology.