Preventing postpartum depression: review and recommendations

Abstract

Nearly 20 % of mothers will experience an episode of major or minor depression within the first 3 months postpartum, making it the most common complication of childbearing. Postpartum depression (PPD) is significantly undertreated, and because prospective mothers are especially motivated for self-care, a focus on the prevention of PPD holds promise of clinical efficacy. This study is a qualitative review of existing approaches to prevent PPD. A PubMed search identified studies of methods of PPD prevention. The search was limited to peer-reviewed, published, English-language, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of biological, psychological, and psychosocial interventions. Eighty articles were initially identified, and 45 were found to meet inclusion criteria. Eight RCTs of biological interventions were identified and 37 RCTs of psychological or psychosocial interventions. Results were mixed, with 20 studies showing clear positive effects of an intervention and 25 showing no effect. Studies differed widely in screening, population, measurement, and intervention. Among biological studies, anti-depressants and nutrients provided the most evidence of successful intervention. Among psychological and psychosocial studies, 13/17 successful trials targeted an at-risk population, and 4/7 trials using interpersonal therapy demonstrated success of the intervention versus control, with a further two small studies showing trends toward statistical significance. Existing approaches to the prevention of PPD vary widely, and given the current literature, it is not possible to identify one approach that is superior to others. Interpersonal therapy trials and trials that targeted an at-risk population appear to hold the most promise for further study.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Werner or Sierra Kuzava.

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Werner, E., Miller, M., Osborne, L.M. et al. Preventing postpartum depression: review and recommendations. Arch Womens Ment Health 18, 41–60 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-014-0475-y

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Keywords

  • Postpartum depression
  • Pregnancy
  • Mood disorders
  • Prevention
  • Intervention