Zoloft Could Be Doctors’ Answer to Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression affects about 13% of new mothers. Risk factors for this condition include previous bouts of depression or anxiety, substance abuse, poor family relationships, and financial difficulties. Minor depression or other mood changes are normal during the first few weeks after delivery. Various factors, including stress and hormonal changes, combine to cause mood changes that are generally not serious.

Postpartum depression, however, is a more severe condition that may persist for a year or longer. Despite the prevalence of the condition, research into effective treatments for the condition is behind the curve. The consequences of untreated postpartum depression extend beyond just the mother. Infants of depressed mothers often experience developmental delays, problems with behavior, and sleep disturbances.

A study sponsored by the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island will investigate the relative effectiveness of interpersonal psychotherapy alone and Zoloft (sertraline) alone in the treatment of postpartum depression. Recent mothers with a diagnosis of major depression are eligible for the study. Alcohol or drug dependence will be among the reasons for exclusion from the study group.

In addition, psychotic symptoms, bipolar personality, and recent use of an antidepressant are also reasons for exclusion. Researchers hope to enroll 150 women for the study and expect a completion date of June 2013. The duration of the study will be 9 months, with 13 weeks of initial treatment followed by six months of observation.

The postpartum depression study in Rhode Island will consist of three treatment groups. The placebo group will receive a placebo pill and standard clinical management. In other words, the usual treatment for a person receiving antidepressant medications, not including therapy. The second group will receive Zoloft along with clinical management. Finally, a third group will receive only interpersonal psychotherapy. Researchers will assess participants’ mood states using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Measurements will be performed at weeks 4, 8, and 12 of the experiment, as well as 3 and 6 months after treatment.

The objective of this study is to provide data that shows the relative effectiveness of two typical and proven treatments for depression. In this case, postpartum depression represents a unique but all too common case. Because of the high stakes involved for both mother and child, isolating the ideal approach for this condition is extremely important.


  1. Effectiveness of Sertraline Alone and Interpersonal Psychotherapy Alone in Treating Women With Postpartum Depression – Full Text View – ClinicalTrials.gov. (n.d.). Home – ClinicalTrials.gov. Retrieved from http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00602355?cond=%22Depression%2C+Postpartum%22&rank=6
  2. Postpartum depression – PubMed Health. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0004481/

© Copyright 2011 by James Pendleton. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

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