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Targeted support cuts depression in new mothers

16 January 2009

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The risk of postnatal depression in new mothers can be reduced through increased psychological support, according to research.

Visits from health visitors or contact with other mothers who had experienced similar feelings dramatically reduced the likelihood of women developing symptoms and increased the chances of early symptoms improving.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield compared women receiving cognitive behavioural therapy and person-centred therapy for an hour a week over eight weeks with those who received the usual level of care.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that both forms of psychological support led to a reduction in depressive symptoms when compared with women receiving the usual level of care.

Mothers displaying depressive symptoms at six weeks were 40% less likely to have them six months after birth than women receiving usual care.

The authors wrote: “Training health visitors to assess women, identify symptoms of postnatal depression, and deliver psychologically informed sessions was clinically effective at six and 12 months postnatally compared with usual care.”

A second study from the US also found that telephone support helped in combating the effects of postnatal depression.

Antidepressants have been shown to be an effective treatment for postnatal depression but many women are reluctant to take the drugs, especially when breastfeeding.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

University of Sheffield