What is the Edinburgh scale?

Nearly every woman imagines life with a new baby will 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 provider will probably 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 probably 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. They may also use another evaluation tool, like the PHQ-9, or simply evaluate you by asking a series of questions. 

But you may not necessarily be on the lookout for signs of postpartum depression, 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 delivery. 

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 signs of postpartum depression.
  • No clear telling when: While the 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 depression can overlap or be confused with other illnesses, like obsessive-compulsive disorder or anxiety. And many women have a hard time believing that their feelings are a result of postpartum 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, those who have recently delivered a baby. It’s used to determine whether or not a woman may have or be at risk for 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, in an outpatient setting, or even during a home visit: There’s no specific place where the test has to be done.
  • It’s usually administered during pregnancy or the first postpartum visit: It may also be administered earlier depending on risk factors, but the Edinburgh is typically first used 6-8 weeks postpartum, and can be administered by a postpartum healthcare provider or the baby’s pediatrician.
  • It takes around 5 minutes and consists of 10 questions: The Edinburgh scale isn’t long or complicated. 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, or is experiencing symptoms of it. If a test is positive, it needs to be followed up by further assessment.

Postpartum depression has a huge impact on the quality of a woman’s life, and 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 detect PPD symptoms and 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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