Australia is a leader in recognising that perinatal mental health problems are prevalent and constitute a significant burden of disease among women. In 2009, the Australian government launched the National Perinatal Depression Initiative (NPDI) to address this.
To investigate implementation of Australia’s NPDI.
Materials and Methods
Data were collected by a structured online survey assessing: screening for depression and depression risk in women receiving antenatal and postnatal care; staff training about perinatal depression; barriers and enablers to implementing the NPDI recommendations. All Australian members of Women’s Healthcare Australasia (WHA) were invited to complete the survey in March 2011.
Of 30 Australian WHA members, 14 (46.6%) completed the survey. The sample included a representative distribution of small, medium and large hospitals. All respondents had introduced some NPDI recommendations. Most (80%) reported using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to screen for antenatal depression and for risk of developing depression but at varied gestational ages, and with differing cut‐off scores for follow‐up or referral. Only one assessed depression status postpartum. Responsibility for screening and feedback was predominantly assigned to midwives, most of whom were offered <4 h training. Implementation barriers included insufficient personnel; per‐client time requirements; insufficient clarity about screening protocols; difficulties modifying the medical record; few referral options and a lack of training resources. Conclusions Implementation of the NPDI is uneven among Australian maternity hospitals. Little is known about perinatal mental health screening practices in the private sector and hospitals with <1000 births annually.