After web-based screening of more than 21,000 women from seven health regions in Ontario, 701 high risk mothers were recruited and randomised to receive standard postnatal care or standard care and the support of a peer volunteer (who had experienced postnatal depression themselves).
Mothers who received peer support had half the risk of developing postnatal depression at 12 weeks after birth compared to those in the control group.
Mothers were receptive to receiving telephone-based peer support and more than 80 percent said they were satisfied with their experience and would recommend this support to a friend.
In an accompanying write-up, Dennis said: “Women and family members need to be educated about postnatal depression so they can recognise the symptoms.”
“Treatment needs to be convenient and accessible to new mothers.” Although antidepressants are effective, many women are reluctant to take medication, especially when breast feeding, said a Bloomberg release.
She called for a coordinated multidisciplinary approach to identify postnatal depression involving all health professionals who come into contact with new mothers including midwives, doctors, nurses and health visitors.
Sources: These finding were published in the British Medical Journal Online.