Juliet Walker: BMJ in the news

Juliet WalkerThe media has picked up on two research papers and a linked editorial, published this week, which address postnatal depression and how it can be treated without taking antidepressants. The studies show that the support of health visitors and other women who have experienced postnatal depression can help new mothers deal effectively with the condition.

As part of NHS care new mothers are routinely visited by healthcare visitors who are specially trained nurses. One of the papers examined the effect that consultations with healthcare visitors who received additional training had on women with postnatal depression compared with usual care. Women who were identified as having postnatal depression were randomly allocated to either usual healthcare visits, or visits from healthcare visitors with special training to deliver psychologically informed sessions. The women’s progress was followed up at six and 12 months postnatally. The researchers found that the women who received visits from specially trained healthcare visitors were less likely to feel depressed six and 12 months after giving birth. The trial provides strong evidence that healthcare visitors can be trained to recognise depression and provide effective treatment.

The second paper examined the effect of peer support on the prevention of postnatal depression among high risk women. Women identified as being at high risk of postnatal depression were randomly allocated to usual postnatal care or they were provided with support from a volunteer who had postnatal depression herself. Of those who received the support of a peer, 80% were satisfied with their experience and would recommend it to a friend.

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Juliet Walker is the Editorial Intern, BMJ