The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) is a clinically-validated tool that healthcare providers use to evaluate, diagnose, and monitor depression in pregnant and postpartum women. Because the EPDS is so quick, widely-used, and accessible, many organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support its use in screening pregnant and postpartum women for depression.
After taking the EPDS, you’ll receive a total “score.” Although different providers may give different advice depending on one’s score, a score of 10 or above is commonly considered “possible depression.” Other guidelines suggest that a score of 13 or higher is suggestive of a “depressive illness of varying severity.” The higher the score, the more likely depression is, but all scores of 10 or above warrant some follow-up with a healthcare provider.
Getting a score of 9 or below doesn’t necessarily rule out depression, and if you’re experiencing unusual feelings of sadness, difficulty sleeping due to stress, extreme moodiness, or any other symptoms that don’t feel quite normal to you, it never hurts to open up the lines of communication with your healthcare provider. The EPDS only asks for feelings in the past week, so it can be useful to apply a longer-term approach to the EPDS, taking it regularly throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period.
In addition to the total score, healthcare providers look at the response to the last question, which asks about self-harm. Those who answer anything besides “never” when asked how frequently the thought of harming themselves occurs are encouraged to reach out to a healthcare provider or other resource immediately. If you’re having thoughts of self-harm, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, 911, or your local emergency number.
If you scored a 10 or above, it’s a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider. Depression can’t be diagnosed through the EPDS alone, but taking it frequently can help you get a better idea of when you might be in need of some assistance.
- Committee on Obstetric Practice. “Committee Opinion: Screening for Perinatal Depression.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Number 630, May 2015. Retrieved July 9 2018. https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Screening-for-Perinatal-Depression.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Depression during pregnancy: you’re not alone.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 24 2016. Retrieved July 9 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/depression-during-pregnancy/art-20237875.
- Cox, J.L., Holden, J.M., and Sagovsky, R. 1987. Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. British Journal of Psychiatry 150:782-786. https://www.fresno.ucsf.edu/pediatrics/downloads/edinburghscale.pdf.