Postpartum screening: How are you really feeling, mama?

Remember those quizzes in Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire that took about five minutes to answer but revealed important insights like your perfect celebrity match, if you’d survive being stranded on a dessert island, and what your favorite food says about your personality?

It turns out that there are a few quizzes designed for new moms that are just as fast and easy to take but are designed to reveal much more important information — like whether you might be suffering from postpartum depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. The quizzes are given and scored by a doctor, and they are really, really important.

As a new mom who might be dealing with the effects of surging hormones, lack of sleep, and a pretty big and permanent life upheaval, it can sometimes be really tricky to tell if the crying is because you’re just plain exhausted or if there is something more serious going on. That’s where these tests come in.

What are the tests?

There are two common screening tests your OB-GYN or even your baby’s pediatrician will use to check for signs of postpartum mental health issues:

Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)

This is a 10-question multiple choice quiz that takes less than three minutes to fill out, and it’s available in 23 languages. It is the most common and proven tool used to screen for depression in new moms.

Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ)

This is a five-minute, 15-question yes-or-no answer quiz that helps identify bipolar disorder. This test isn’t given as regularly as the other one, but it is important: 60% of women with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed with major depression during the perinatal period. That puts them at risk for the doctor starting an antidepressant, which can make bipolar disorder worse. Using the two tests together is the most effective way to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

What do they ask?

Both tests will ask you questions about how you’ve been feeling recently. EPDS questions cover topics like difficulty sleeping, the extent to which you’ve felt panicky or scared, how much you’ve been able to enjoy or find humor in things. MDQ questions ask about instances when you may not have felt like your usual self. There’s nothing you have to do to study or prepare for either test.

Be open and honest! You know yourself the best, so if your body, mood, energy, appetite, or anything else seems “off,” please share those things with your doctor so they can help. The sooner you can identify what’s going on, the faster you can start treatment and begin to feel better. 

When do they happen?

Screenings can happen during your first prenatal doctor’s visit, during your third trimester visit, and during your postpartum visit (sometimes just during this visit). The majority of postpartum depression actually starts during pregnancy, so the earlier it’s caught, the earlier treatment can begin.

If you know you’re struggling, don’t wait for a screening visit

Screening for postpartum mental health is becoming more common, but it’s still not required by every state, and a large portion of new moms won’t be screened at all. If you are having a hard time, please reach out to your obstetrician, baby’s pediatrician, midwife, or primary care physician and share your concerns. If you feel that those already helping are not doing so urgently enough, please reach out to a therapist or psychiatrist. For more information about screening, visit Women’s Behavioral Health at Allegheny Health Network.


If you feel that you’re in deep depression and you fear that there is immediate danger, such as self-harm or harm to your baby, please call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for help.

To find support and resources outside of Western PA, contact Postpartum Support International at or call 1-800-944-4773.

To find out more information about how AHN Women is innovating the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety, follow AHN on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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