Screening for Postpartum Depression in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Maggie Hughes Brownlee, Pamela A. Harris-Haman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common mental health condition that affects approximately 13% of postpartum women in the United States. However, the prevalence in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has been shown to be higher. Routine screening for maternal PPD is recommended at infant primary care well-child visits up to 6 months of age. The absence of a routine PPD screening program in a level IV NICU created a large gap in screening in an at-risk population. Purpose: To develop and implement a screening program in the NICU to increase the identification of maternal PPD symptoms and to develop both a referral algorithm for NICU staff to follow and a referral resource packet to be given to mothers with positive PPD screenings. Methods: Mothers with infants in the NICU were screened for PPD using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Bedside nurses administered the screening tool and used a referral algorithm to determine appropriate follow-up. EPDS scores of 10 or more were considered positive and indicated a need for referral. Results: The overall EPDS screening compliance was 66% with a positive rate of 26%. Nurses followed the referral algorithm appropriately 100% of the time. It was confirmed that 93% of the mothers with positive EPDS screenings sought help from a mental health provider. Implications for Practice and Research: Routine maternal PPD screening should be implemented in all NICU settings. Postpartum mental health issues should not be the sole responsibility of obstetricians, mental health providers, or maternal primary care providers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E102-E110
JournalAdvances in Neonatal Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale
  • family-centered care in the NICU
  • maternal mental health
  • neonatal intensive care unit
  • postpartum depression
  • postpartum depression screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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