The point prevalence of post-partum perinatal mental health disorders and associated psychosocial characteristics in Malta: a study protocol

Rachel Buhagiar, Kristina Bettenzana


Background: Perinatal mental health disorders are considered to be a major public health concern, affecting approximately 20% of pregnant and postnatal women. Left untreated, maternal psychopathology can extent to the rest of the family unit, including the child. Thus, a better understanding of the overall burden of these disorders is fundamental to inform policy makers and produce practice change.  To-date, the exact prevalence of these disorders  in Malta, an island in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, remains unknown. The primary objective of this cross-sectional study will be to address this gap in knowledge and define the local prevalence of perinatal psychopathology.

Methods: A representative sample of approximately 250 postnatal women from birth up to one year after childbirth, resident in Malta, will be recruited through a stratified random technique. Participation will involve two phases.  In the first stage, selected participants will be asked to self-complete the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the Generalised Anxiety Disorder-7 item (GAD-7), the Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBoCS), the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-V (PCL-5), and the Difficulties in Emotional Regulation Scale (DERS) questionnaires.  In the second stage, those women who score equal or above the cut-off values in any of these questionnaires, will be assessed using the diagnostic Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) to confirm or refute a diagnosis of a mental health disorder. Basic demographic details and psychosocial characteristics will be recorded.

Conclusions: This study will help determine the point prevalence of postnatal perinatal psychopathology and associated psychosocial determinants in Malta.


Perinatal mental health disorders, Perinatal psychopathology, Postpartum, Prevalence

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