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Health visitors can tackle postnatal depression

Trained health visitors can effectively deliver psychological interventions to women the identify with postnatal depression, new research shows.

Telephone peer support is also an alternative option to antidepressants and can halve the risk that a women will develop postnatal depression, which affects one in eight women in the year after they give birth.

In a study of more than 4,000 women from 101 general practices in England were given either usual health visitor care, or a cognitive behavioural or person-centre approach from a trained health visitor.

After both six months and 12 months during the 18-month follow-up period, the mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression who received care psychological interventions were 40% less likely to have depressive symptoms at six months than those receiving health visitor usual care.

In a separate study, a team of researchers from Ontario, Canada found mothers who received peer support in the form of telephone conversation with women who had experienced postnatal depression themselves, had half the risk of developing postnatal depression at 12 weeks after birth than those in a control group.

Both studies are published in the BMJ. In an accompanying editorial, Dr Cindy-Lee Dennis, associate professor in perinatal community health at the University of Toronto, said the trials ‘add to the growing evidence that postnatal depression can be effectively treated and possibly prevented.'

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