Background. Postnatal depression refers to a non-psychotic depressive episode that begins in or extends into the postpartum period. The aims of this study were to examine the prevalence of depressive symptoms in a pregnant and later postnatal population, to determine the natural course of these symptoms and whether there is an association between antenatal and postnatal depressive symptomatology.
Methods. A longitudinal study with a total population of 1,558 consecutively registered pregnant women in the southeast region of Sweden. Presence of depressive symptoms was measured with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale on four occasions namely in gestational week 35–36, in the maternity ward, 6–8 weeks and 6 months postpartum.
Results. The prevalence of depressive symptoms during late pregnancy was 17%; in the maternity ward 18%; 6–8 weeks postnatally 13%; and 6 months postnatally, 13%. A correlation between antenatal and postnatal depressive symptoms was found (r=0.50, p<0.0001).
Conclusion. Detection of women at risk for developing postnatal depressive symptoms can be done during late pregnancy. Antenatal care clinics constitute a natural and useful environment for recognition of women with depressive symptoms.