Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 103–108 | Cite as

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale detects but does not distinguish anxiety disorders from depression in mothers of infants

  • Heather J. Rowe
  • Jane R. W. Fisher
  • Wai May Loh
Original Contribution


Specific screening tests to detect postpartum anxiety are as yet unavailable. The aim of this study was to test the ability of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to detect anxiety disorders in women admitted to residential early parenting centres. Consecutive cohorts of English speaking women admitted with their infants to two centres in Melbourne, Australia completed the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Anxiety and depression diagnoses were compared with EPDS scores. Of the 145 women (78% recruitment rate), 138 (95%) provided complete data of whom 35 (25%) had at least one anxiety disorder. EPDS scores over 12 correctly identified 28 women (44%) as having major depression, either alone or co-morbid with an anxiety disorder but 10 (16%) had only an anxiety disorder and were not depressed. All of the 26 (41%) women with EPDS scores over 12 with neither diagnosis met diagnostic criteria for minor depression or an adjustment disorder. EPDS scores were unable to distinguish between these diagnostic groups. The presumption that EPDS scores over 12 indicate only probable depression is an oversimplification. Current national initiatives recommend that EPDS scores over 12 warrant treatment for depression, which may lead to inappropriate labeling and therapy.


Anxiety Depression Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale Diagnostic interview 



The authors wish to acknowledge the women who generously participated in this research and the staff of the two residential early parenting units for their cooperation. Ms Lauren Matheson, Ms Lara Williamson and Ms Amy Williamson provided research assistance. Funding for the project was awarded by the diamond Consortium, beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence in Depression and Related Disorders.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather J. Rowe
    • 1
  • Jane R. W. Fisher
    • 1
  • Wai May Loh
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society, School of Population HealthUniversity of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia

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