Caring Counseling May Ease Postpartum Depression

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Friday, January 16, 2009; 12:00 AM

FRIDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Either in person or over the phone, women struggling with postpartum depression can be treated effectively by professionals or mothers who have gone through the same thing, two studies find.

Both reports, published in the Jan. 16 online edition of BMJ, find that talk therapy and caring communication can help new mothers deal with their depression without the need for antidepressants.

"Approximately 13 percent of women will experience postpartum depression," said Cindy-Lee Dennis, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and lead researcher on one of the studies. "There are significant consequences of this condition for the mother, the infant and the family."

Once a woman has had postpartum depression, she is more likely to have future bouts of depression, Dennis said, and that puts infants and children at risk for cognitive, behavioral and social problems.

"For the family, often you see with postpartum depression [that] the partner can also experience depression," she said. "We know that this leads to marital conflict and potentially divorce."

People need to understand what the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression are and seek help, Dennis said.

Jane Morrell, research leader at the University of Huddersfield in the U.K. and an author of the other study, agreed.

"Women need to be encouraged not to bottle up their feelings and talk to other people, including their partners and health-care professionals," she said.

Morrell and her colleagues randomly assigned 418 mothers with postpartum depression to have one-hour weekly visits for up to eight weeks from a health-care worker who delivered counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (sometimes called talk therapy) or traditional postnatal care.

The researchers found that at six months and 12 months, mothers who had received counseling or therapy had greater reductions in depression than did mothers who had received usual care.

In fact, mothers who were depressed at six weeks were 40 percent less likely to be depressed at six months if they had gotten counseling or therapy, the researchers found.

Morrell's team also found that this method of dealing with depression was cost-effective. "There is no stronger evidence of an intervention to help women who have depression postnatally," she said.


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