Numerous studies have shown that health care professionals often experience difficulty in detecting postnatal depression. In Japan, where mental illness has traditionally been stigmatized, detection seems even more difficult. This study investigates the prevalence of postnatal depression in the community and its relation to screening methodology.
The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was distributed at community health centers in a district in central Tokyo. The results from both non-identifiable questionnaires and identifiable questionnaires were compared. Screening by EPDS and clinical judgment by community nurses were compared.
Making the questionnaire identifiable did not change the score distribution pattern. Among mothers with 3- to 4-month-old babies in the community, 13.9% scored high (9 or above) on EPDS. In 51.1% of high scorers,nurses did not detect postnatal depression. Clinically, postnatal depression can be easily missed in the community health-check setting especially when there was hitherto no report of obstetric abnormality during pregnancy or delivery.
The prevalence of high scorers is comparable to those reported in other countries. The use of the questionnaire was helpful in drawing the attention of mothers and health care professionals to issues of mental health.