Considering a Simple Strategy for Detection of Women at Risk of Psychological Distress after Childbirth


  • Catherine des Rivières-Pigeon is with the Department of Sociology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada; and Marie-Josèphe Saurel-Cubizolles and Nathalie Lelong are with the Unité 149, INSERM, Villejuif, France.

*Marie-Josèphe Saurel-Cubizolles, INSERM Unité 149, 16 avenue Paul Vaillant-Couturier, 94807 Villejuif Cedex, France.


Abstract: Background: Postpartum depression is a common, severe, yet often undetected condition. Between 10 and 15 percent of new mothers suffer from depressive disorders in the first year after childbirth. The objective of this study was to investigate whether asking women questions about their daily life constituted a useful strategy to detect women at risk of developing psychological distress after childbirth. Methods: A prospective study of 330 first- and second-time mothers was conducted. Structured interviews with women were performed at the maternity unit 1 to 2 days after childbirth, and postal questionnaires were sent to participants 5 months later. An interviewer wrote down her perception of the mood of participants, in the form of three short statements, immediately after the interview. This perception was compared with the score of the woman on the General Health Questionnaire scale, which was included in the 5 months’ questionnaire. Results: The interviewer's perception of women's mood was significantly associated with the score on the General Health Questionnaire scale 5 months later. Multivariate analysis showed that the interviewer's perception of anxiety was a better predictor of postpartum psychological distress at 5 months than women's answers to questions about their mood before pregnancy and 1 to 2 days after delivery. Conclusions: Asking the new mother questions about her private and occupational life can be considered as one of many possible ways to improve the identification of women at risk of developing postpartum depression. (BIRTH 31:1 March 2004)