[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: INTRODUCTION: Ante-partum depression (APD) is usually defined as a non-psychotic depressive episode of mild to moderate severity, beginning in or extending into pregnancy. APD has received less attention than postpartum depression. This is a cross-sectional study carried out in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OG) departments of four different general hospitals in Italy. METHODS: Women attending consecutively the OG departments for their first ultrasound examination were asked to fill in the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) in its Italian validated version. We used the total scores of the EPDS as a continuous variable for univariate and linear regression analyses; in accordance with the literature, the item analysis of EPDS was carried out by classifying the sample as women with "no depression" (scores 0-9), "possible depression" (scores 10-12), "probable depression" (scores 13+) and "probable APD" (scores 15+). RESULTS: The number of women recruited was 1,608. The EPDS assessment classified 10.9 % of the women as possibly depressed, 8.3 % as probably depressed and 4.7 % probably affected from an APD. EPDS score distribution was associated with nationality (higher scores for foreigners), cohabitation (higher scores for women living with friends or in a community), occupation (higher scores for housewives), past episodes of depression and use of herbal drugs. Non-depressed women had significantly lower values on all ten items as compared with depressed women, however, the pattern of item distribution on the EPDS scale remained similar across depression severity groups. In all four groups item 4 (anxious depression) attained the highest scores, while item 10 (suicidality) attained the lowest scores.