, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 295-305
Date: 04 May 2010

Prevalence and incidence of postnatal depression: what can systematic reviews tell us?

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Abstract

Background

Postnatal depression (PND) has a significant impact on maternal mental health. Systematic reviews provide a useful tool to summarise research, however little is known about the quantity and quality of existing systematic reviews of prevalence and incidence of PND.

Objective

The objective of this paper is to provide a systematic overview of existing systematic reviews of prevalence and incidence of PND in the first 12 postnatal months.

Method

Medline, Embase, Cinahl, PsychInfo and the Cochrane Library were searched for systematic reviews of prevalence and incidence of PND which met the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) criteria. Characteristics of selected reviews, completeness of reporting results and methodological quality were evaluated.

Results

Five reviews were selected for appraisal. Only one systematic review was identified; four reviews were non-systematic. Only two reviews provided a quantitative summary estimate of prevalence of PND. Completeness of reporting results using published guidelines was not undertaken by any review. The methodological quality of four reviews revealed limitations.

Conclusions

Limited generalisable evidence exists in the form of high-quality systematic reviews to inform current knowledge of the prevalence and incidence of PND. The implication of this represents an important limitation for health services planning and service delivery.