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Keywords:

  • postnatal depression;
  • postpartum depression;
  • posttraumatic stress disorder

Introduction: Up to 19% of new mothers have major or minor depression sometime during the first 3 months after birth. This article reports on the prevalence of postpartum depressive symptoms and risk factors obtained from a 2-stage US national survey conducted by Childbirth Connection: Listening to Mothers II (LTM II) and Listening to Mothers II Postpartum Survey.

Methods: The weighted survey results are based on an initial sample of 1573 women (1373 online, 200 telephone interviews) who had given birth in the year prior to the survey and repeat interviews with 902 women (859 online, 44 telephone) 6 months later. Three main instruments were used to collect data: the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale (PDSS), the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2), and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Scale-Self Report (PSS-SR).

Results: Sixty-three percent of the women in the LTM II sample screened positive for elevated postpartum depressive symptoms with the PDSS, and 6 months later 42% of the women in this sample screened positive for elevated postpartum depressive symptoms with the PHQ-2. A stepwise, multiple regression revealed 2 variables that significantly explained 54% of the variance in postpartum depressive symptom scores: posttraumatic stress symptom scores on the PSS-SR and health promoting behaviors of healthy diet, managing stress, rest, and exercise.

Discussion: The high percentage of mothers who screened positive for elevated postpartum depressive symptoms in this 2-stage national survey highlights the need for prevention and routine screening during the postpartum period and follow-up treatment.