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Women's Health: Two questions help doctors detect pregnancy-related depression

Screening tool identifies women at low risk, helping physicians zero in on those who may need help

Women at low risk for depression during pregnancy or after delivery can be identified with a simple two-question screening tool, allowing doctors to focus their efforts on women who may need further tests.

The questions are: In the past month have you been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things; and in the past month have you been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless.

The two-thirds of women who answer “no” to both questions are at very low risk for depression, while answering “yes” to either one “should prompt more evaluation for the possibility of depression,” says Dr. Ian Bennett of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Bennett says there are other questionnaires for identifying postpartum depression, but they are longer and more difficult to use. “In pregnancy and postpartum, we know that very small proportions of patients are actually being screened in a regular way.”

Bennett and his colleagues assessed 820 women during and after pregnancy, comparing the two-item questionnaire with a more elaborate screening tool, finding that the two questions successfully weeded out women who were at low risk for postpartum depression.

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