Could visits by trained health professionals be key in helping prevent postpartum depression? Results of a U.K. study - the world's first, large-scale randomized trial of this kind of intervention, according to researchers - suggest the answer may be "yes."
Over an 18-month period researchers followed more than 2,000 mothers who worked with home visitors (community nurses with the National Health Service who are tasked with providing care to all infants and mothers in the U.K.). Close to 1,500 of these women received support from health visitors who had undergone extra training in assessing and providing help for mental health problems. And, as reported by the BBC:
The study found that those women who were seen by a health visitor with additional mental health training were 30% less likely to develop depression six months after child birth compared with women receiving usual care.
Even women who had few or no complaints of depression at six weeks after child birth appeared to benefit later if their health visitor had the additional training, the research says.
University of Leicester researcher Terry Brugha, MD, PhD, said it's been thought that health visitors could help detect depression in new moms. But this study, he and his colleagues note in their paper, "provides new evidence of a universal, enduring preventive effect" of the home-visit program.
Citing a recent reduction in the number of NHS health visitors, the researchers said the country's challenge is to ensure more mothers have access to the service.
Previously: Study shows exercise can boost new moms' well-being
Photo by Gabriela Camerotti