Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Two-question mental health pregnancy screening 'as effective as long questionnaire'

  • Comment

Mental health disorders among pregnant women can be screened just as effectively by using a two-question tool as with a 10-point questionnaire, a new UK study has found.

The research, carried out by academics at King’s College London, also found that 25% of pregnant women have a mental health illness – a higher proportion than had previously been thought.

“It is encouraging that…there was little difference in diagnostic accuracy between the commonly used tools”

Louise Howard

It is the first UK study to examine the prevalence of mental health problems or mental disorders when seen by a midwife for pregnancy care.

Researchers compared the use of the two-question Whooley tool with the longer Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale among 545 pregnant women attending an antenatal appointment at a maternity service in South East London.

The study, carried out between November 2014 and June 2016, revealed there was “little difference” in the ability of the two tools to identify whether a woman had “any disorder”, according to those behind the research.

In addition, from interviewing the women, the researchers said they found one in four had a mental illness.

While 11% had depression, and 15% had anxiety problems, the interviews also revealed 2% had eating disorders, 2% had obsessive-compulsive disorder, 1% had post-traumatic stress disorder. Other disorders, such as bipolar, were also found, but less commonly.

“Maternity professionals need to identify whether or not a woman has any mental disorder, not only mood disorders”

Louise Howard

There was also evidence that identification of depression was more difficult in older women than younger women.

Mental illness during pregnancy is associated with adverse outcomes for women, the pregnancy itself, and for the child, highlighted the researchers. They noted it was vital these disorders were diagnosed as early as possible.

Louise Howard, professor of women’s mental health, at King’s College London, authored the report, which was published this week in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

“In clinical practice, maternity professionals need to identify whether or not a woman has any mental disorder, not only mood disorders, which until recently have been the main focus of concern,” she said.

“It is therefore encouraging that, in this study, there was little difference in diagnostic accuracy between the commonly used tools – the Whooley questions and the EPDS – in identifying a mental disorder,” said Professor Howard.

“This study supports the NICE recommendation that women should be asked, by a non-judgemental and supportive health professional, at all contacts in pregnancy and after birth about their emotional wellbeing and are given the opportunity to respond to these structured questions (the Whooley or the EPDS),” she said.

“A positive identification then needs to be followed by a clinical assessment by an appropriate health practitioner to establish the clinical diagnosis and appropriate intervention,” she added.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.