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What is a Postpartum Depression Scale?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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A postpartum depression scale is a way for healthcare practitioners to begin to determine whether or not a woman is suffering from postpartum depression, as well as the severity of the depression she may be experiencing. The most common postpartum depression scale is known as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), and is used by a number of doctors. There are other scales available, however, and there are also self assessment versions to be found online if a woman begins to become concerned about her moods and behavior.

A postpartum depression scale will typically consist of handful of questions, usually around ten or 20 questions, designed to assess the new mother's moods and emotions. Each question will generally have the same number of answers, each related to the frequency or degree to which one experiences an emotion. For instance, a sample question from the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is "I have looked forward with enjoyment to things," with the potential answers being "As much as I ever did," "Rather less than I used to," "Definitely less than I used to," and "Hardly at all."

Other questions on the postpartum depression scale follow the "Always, often, sometimes, or never," answer options, which are related to the instances in which one might feel sad, anxious, upset, or depressed. The individual taking the postpartum depression scale questionnaire should fill it out by herself, without input from anyone else, and be certain to answer each question honestly. Honest answers are the only way to determine if one is legitimately suffering from postpartum depression.

Then, each question on the postpartum depression scale is scored. Each answer is given a different number of points; the points are then added up. Based on the final score, a healthcare practitioner can see whether a new mother might be suffering from postpartum depression. Of course, individual interaction and discussion with the patient is necessary. Complete diagnosis is not made based off a simple questionnaire, but it often provides a good place to start.

The postpartum depression scale is usually given to women from six to eight weeks after a woman gives birth. It may be given at a follow-up appointment at a doctor, unless a woman feels that she needs to be evaluated sooner. Postpartum depression is extremely common after giving birth, and there is plenty of help available for women who find that they need it.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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