Health visitors ‘aid birth blues’

BBC News 16 January 2009

The risk of new mothers developing postnatal depression is cut if health visitors are trained to spot signs and offer psychological help, a study says. Health visitors were trained to spot symptoms of depression six to eight weeks after birth. Women who were then given psychological support by health visitors, rather than the usual process of being referred on to a GP, fared better.

University of Sheffield researchers looked at 4,000 women. At the six or eight-week check, 600 women were found to have signs of postnatal depression. A third were offered the usual care of a GP referral, while the rest were offered eight sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, which aims to change behavioural responses, or person-centred therapy where the patient is encouraged to discuss their feelings about their situation. Both forms of psychological support led to a reduction in depressive symptoms when compared with women in a control group who received the usual level of care. A third of women who had been given therapy still had symptoms of depression six months after their baby’s birth, compared with just under half of those in the control group. The difference in outcomes remained when women were assessed again at 12 months.