Depression can be a major health issue for pregnant women, especially if the depression continues post-partum. “The negative effects of maternal depression on child development are extensively documented,” said researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University. “Many of these effects stem from systematic disruptions in parenting behavior—most commonly, mothers are withdrawn or emotionally unavailable to their children, or they are intrusive and harsh, particularly in how they use discipline.” Statistics show that low-income women are at increased risk for this form of depression. Realizing the far-reaching implications of this problem, the researchers wanted to determine if integrating the Mothers and Babies Course (MB), a cognitive based therapy that is structured around pleasant activities and socialization, into already utilized home visitation services, could lower the rates of perinatal depression.
“Home visitation is a promising context for identifying and addressing perinatal depression. Home visiting programs typically enroll women prenatally with services continuing until a child reaches 2–5 years of age,” said the team. “As such, home visiting programs can provide continuity of care across the perinatal period for women and their infants.” Sixty-one women, either pregnant or with infants, were enrolled in the study. The MB consisted of six 2 hour long interventions over a six week period.
The results revealed that 84% of the women who received the MB showed significant improvement in depressive symptoms three months after treatment, compared with only 41% of the women who received home visitation alone. Additionally, 89% of women in the MB group saw their symptoms decrease from severe to moderate. The researchers said, “This study also supports recent findings that highlight the relevance of home visitation programs as a context for targeting depression and the feasibility of embedding mental health services within such programs.” They added, “By preventing the onset and worsening of depressive symptoms, women may be more likely to fully engage with home visitation services, thus realizing the potential benefits of those services for themselves and their children.”
Tandon, S. D., Perry, D. F., Mendelson, T., Kemp, K., & Leis, J. A. (2011, August 1). Preventing Perinatal Depression in Low-Income Home Visiting Clients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024895
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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