What is the Edinburgh scale?

Nearly every woman imagines life with a new baby to go a certain way. They know there will probably be lots of diapers, laundry, and baby bottle sterilization – and very few restful nights. But one thing that most moms-to-be don’t imagine is how they’ll be on the lookout for conditions like postpartum depression.

Difficulties with diagnosing

Your healthcare provider will tell you all about the symptoms and risks associated with postpartum depression so that you can identify it should it start to develop. At the latest, your healthcare provider will evaluate you for postpartum depression at your post-delivery checkup, around 6 to 8 weeks after delivery, though some providers will administer an evaluation sooner. They may do this evaluation using the Edinburgh scale, a series of questions designed to identify postpartum depression especially. They may also use another evaluation tool, like the PHQ-9, or simply evaluate you by asking a series of questions.

You may not necessarily be on the lookout for signs of postpartum depression, though, even with warning, especially during one of the most exciting experiences of your life. This is why it’s so important to screen for postpartum depression; it can easily go under the radar in the months following labor. 

There are a number of reasons why postpartum depression can be hard to pin down.

  • Maybe it’s the (baby) blues: It’s hard for new moms to draw the line between which feelings are ‘baby blues’ and which are the signs of postpartum depression.
  • No clear telling when: While the Diagnostic Statistical Manual defines PPD as a form of depression which begins in the first four weeks after delivery, and it certainly can develop as early as right after birth, many women’s symptoms aren’t recognized until much later – sometimes as much as a year after a mother welcomes a new baby into her life.
  • Confusing symptoms: Postpartum mood disorders can appear in other forms, like obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety. And many women have a hard time believing that their feelings are a result of a postpartum mood disorder.

Because of these reasons, it’s extremely useful to screen for postpartum depression. Healthcare professionals commonly use the Edinburgh scale as a tool for screening.

The Edinburgh scale

This is a test for women who are pregnant, or more commonly, who have recently delivered a baby. It’s used to determine whether or not a woman may have postpartum depression. Here are some details about the scale itself, and when you might find yourself taking it.

  • It can be done in a hospital, outpatient setting, or even a home visit: There’s no specific place that the test has to be done.
  • It’s usually administered during the first postpartum visit: It may be administered earlier depending on risk factors, but the Edinburgh is typically first used 6-8 weeks postpartum.
  • It takes around 5 minutes, and consists of 10 questions: The Edinburgh scale isn’t long or complicated, and generally, it just takes introspection. The questions ask things like whether or not a mother has, in the past 2 weeks, had difficulty sleeping, felt scared for no reason, or felt like things were hopeless.
  • It’s not a replacement for a professional diagnosis: Only a licensed mental health professional can diagnose someone with postpartum depression – the Edinburgh scale is used to measure whether or not a woman is at risk for the condition.
  • Different scores mean different treatments: Even if a woman doesn’t have the highest score, she still might get referred to a mental health professional, because different scores can raise different concerns.

Postpartum depression has a huge impact on the quality of a woman’s life, at a time when she needs all the mental and physical strength that she can get. The Edinburgh scale is a tool that providers can use to determine which new mothers might need treatment for postpartum depression. It doesn’t give an official diagnosis of postpartum depression, but it can help point healthcare providers and new mothers in the right direction.

Read more
  • “What is postpartum depression and anxiety?” APA. American Psychological Association, 2017. Web.
  • JL Cox, et al. “Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).” British Journal of Psychiatry. 150, 782-786. Web. 1987.
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