Perinatal depression screening and early treatment

C. Di Venanzio 1, F. Pacitti 1-4, M.C. Rossetti 1, V. Santarelli 1, E. Gregori 1, A. D’Alfonso 2-4, G. Carta 2-3, A. Rossi 1-4

¹ Psychiatry Unit San Salvatore Hospital, L’Aquila, Italy; ² Gynecology and Obstetrics Unit San Salvatore Hospital, L’Aquila, Italy; ³ MESVA Department of Medicine, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L’Aquila, Italy; 4 DISCAB Department of Clinical and Applied Sciences and Biotechnology University of L’Aquila, Italy


The importance of mother’s role in child development and the central role of women in modern society have meant that screening programs for women’s health were developed. The perinatal period is a very fragile phase of a woman’s life, during which there is an increased risk of developing a depressive disorder. This study has the purpose to evaluate the prevalence of perinatal depression, through a screening on pregnant women and in the post partum period, and also to offer them an early therapeutic intervention.

Materials and Methods

Data were collected in three steps. At first, a screening was performed, in the third trimester of pregnancy, by the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9), a self-administered interview for the evaluation of depressive symptoms. All pregnant women received an information brochure on psychiatric disorders that can occur during pregnancy and post partum period. Women who reported a positive test in pregnancy were invited to a clinical interview with a psychiatrist. The second evaluation of depressive symptoms was performed at 40 days after delivery, and the third at 6 months. We also collected data for the most common risk factors associated with perinatal depression.


225 pregnant women were enrolled. 70 (31.1%) reported a PHQ score > 5 and 39 of these (17.3%) were diagnosed with depression at the subsequent psychiatric evaluation. 16 depressed pregnant women (7.35%) accepted a pharmacological and/or psycotherapic treatment. 182 women participated in the first follow up, 40 days after delivery, and 8% of them reported some depressive symptom. 167 mothers took part in the second follow up, six months after giving birth and 1.8% of them showed a depressive symptomatology. The presence of depressive symptoms was significantly associated with having suffered from nausea or vomiting (χ2 = 4.242 p = 0.039). having had spontaneous abortions in the past (χ2 = 4.723 p = 0.030). having taken psychopharmacological treatment in the past (χ2 = 5.789 p = 0.016) and living in precarious housing conditions following the L’Aquila 2009 earthquake (χ2 = 7.216 p = 0.007).


This study confirms that perinatal depression is a very common complication of pregnancy. For this reason a special attention from the public services is required, by developing targeted screening programmes. Our data from the post partum period confirm that participating at a screening and prevention programme is associated with a reduction of depressive symptom prevalence and finally with an improving of women health.

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