A new study by Murdoch Childrens Research Institute has found
almost one in six mothers with young infants who attended an
emergency department suffered from post-natal depression, and many
mothers hadn't been previously screened for the
Researchers at the Institute screened 200 mothers in the
children's emergency department at The Royal Children's Hospital
and found the incidence of post natal depression was 16%; more than
double the reported 7.6% prevalence rate.
Researchers also found that more than half (58%) of mothers hadn't
been screened at their maternal health nurse or GP for post natal
The study, which was published in Archives of Disease in
Childhood, found mothers who screened positively for depression
were found to be 4.8 times more likely to have suffered previously
from depression than those who screened negatively. Single
mothers and indigenous mothers were also more likely to suffer from
Lead researcher, Doctor Amanda Stock, said the study highlighted
that many women were 'falling through the cracks' on post natal
"There were a large number of women who were experiencing post
natal depression who attended the emergency department - twice the
reported rate, which shows the high prevalence in this
population. We also had a large number of women who had not
been screened for post natal depression prior to their visit to the
emergency department, which was worrying."
"The findings show clinicians need to be educated on this
important issue, to ensure women are routinely being screened. In
Victoria, post-natal screening is not currently a routine
screening. It's very variable, which means some women get
screened, while others don't."
Researchers said the high rates of acceptability by mothers for
completing the post natal screening indicate the paediatric
emergency department could potentially be another setting in which
maternal mental health can be assessed, to make sure mothers were
The study found mothers who screened positively for depression
came to the emergency department with their infants with complaints
as varied as respiratory problems, fever and crying.
Researchers say this reinforces the message that mothers with
post natal depression can present with any sort of complaint, and
clinicians shouldn't limit their assessments to mothers with crying
or irritable babies, as many mothers will be missed.
This is the first study to investigate the incidence of post
natal depression in an emergency department.
To read the full paper, click