MWRI Investigator Pioneering Postpartum Depression Screening Program

Filed under Research Innovationsand Magee-Womens Hospitaland Katherine Wisner

Postpartum depression occurs in one out of every seven women. Currently, a test to screen for this disease in new mothers exists; however, a national screening program does not. Katherine Wisner, MD, MS, professor and associate investigator with Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI), hopes this will change soon.

"It is already the law in New Jersey," explains Dr. Wisner. "Legislation to implement screening for postpartum depression nationally will be introduced soon."

Dr. Wisner, who also is director of Women's Behavioral HealthCARE at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), is spearheading the postpartum depression screening project. The project, a five-year $2.5 million grant funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), will detect and improve treatment outcomes for women who suffer from postpartum depression. The Depression Care for Women Across the Lifespan conference, scheduled for Oct. 19 to 21 at Pittsburgh's Sheraton Station Square, will serve as the kickoff for the project.

The occurrence of depression across the female lifespan and the potential for intervention, education, and enhancement of function will be examined by integrating the biological, psychosocial, and environmental contributions to the mental health of American women.

Since early 2006, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC has been implementing the new screening study for postpartum depression in women who deliver at Magee. The hospital's maternity discharge nurse partners approach new mothers to offer the free postpartum screening by phone. Mental health professionals from Women's Behavioral HealthCARE screen with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at four to six weeks after birth. To date, almost 1,000 women have been screened. The majority of women have been pleased with the screening process and appreciate the attention to their emotional health.

This is the first study of its kind in Pittsburgh, and it is intended to ensure that women from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to be screened for postpartum depression. The rate of positive screens is 14 percent of women, very close to the rate of 14.5 percent identified nationally by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

According to Dr. Wisner, "This prevention screening program will offer the women who deliver at Magee-Womens Hospital an opportunity to be screened for the most common complication of childbirth - depression."

This study is a comprehensive project to improve treatment outcomes for depressed postpartum women through the adaptation of a depression care management model used in primary care settings to an obstetrical setting. It is the first large-scale study of its kind to be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The study is designed so that women who screen positive for depression are randomly assigned to either a depression care management group or a usual care group. The care management group utilizes a dedicated care manager to provide education, support, and referral to treatment for women who are suffering from postpartum depression. The care manager also provides support to obstetricians and other physicians who manage postpartum depression through provision of information, consultation, and coordination of care. Outcomes between the two groups will be compared for one year post-birth to evaluate results for mothers and their infants.

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