Postnatal mental health of women giving birth in Australia 2002-2004: Findings from the Beyond Blue National Postnatal Depression Program

Document Type

Journal Article


Informa Healthcare


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




Buist, A., Austin, M., Hayes, B., Speelman, C. P., Bilszta, J., Gemmill, A., Brooks, J. A., Ellwood, D., & Milgrom, J. (2008). Postnatal Mental Health of Women Giving Birth in Australia 2002-2004: Findings From the Beyond Blue National Postnatal Depression Program. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 42(1), 66-73. Available here


Objectives: To describe the postnatal mental health status of women giving birth in Australia 2002–2004 at 6–8 weeks postpartum. Method: Women were recruited from 43 health services across Australia. Women completed a demographic questionnaire and an Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) in pregnancy; the latter was repeated at 6–8 weeks following childbirth. Results: A total of 12 361 postnatal women (53.8% of all postnatal women surveyed) completed questionnaires as part of a depression screening programme; 15.5% of women screened had a postnatal EPDS>9 and 7.5% of women had an EPDS>12 at 6–8 weeks following childbirth. There was significant variation between States in the percentage of women scoring as being potentially depressed. The highest percentage of women scoring EPDS>12 were in Queensland and South Australia (both 10.2%) while Western Australia had the lowest point prevalence (5.6%). Women recruited from private health services in Western Australia had a significantly lower prevalence of elevated EPDS scores than those women recruited from the public health service (EPDS >12: 3.6% vs 6.4%, p=0.026); differences in the prevalence of elevated EPDS scores were not significant between public and private in Australian Capital Territory (EPDS>12: 7.6% vs 5.8%, p=0.48), where income and education was significantly higher than other States for both groups. Conclusions: Postnatal depressive symptoms affect a significant number of women giving birth in Australia, and the point prevalence on the EPDS may be higher for women in the public sector, associated with lower incomes and educational levels. Maternity services – particularly those serving women with these risk factors – need to consider how they identify and manage the emotional health needs of women in their care. Specific State-related issues, such as availability of specialist perinatal mental health services and liaison between treating health professionals, also need to be considered.





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