HTA-funded research into postnatal depression publishes in the BMJ
News release from NETSCC, HTA
16 January 2009
One of the largest trials looking at postnatal depression has been published in this week’s issue of the BMJ. The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme, found that health visitors can be trained to identify women with postnatal depression and offer effective treatment.
Postnatal depression is a global problem and an important public health issue. Around 13 per cent of women experience depression during the first year after having a baby, yet it is frequently undetected and untreated because symptoms are difficult to recognise, there may be fear of stigmatisation, or there is a lack of awareness about treatment options.
Although antidepressants have been shown to be an effective treatment for postnatal depression, many women are reluctant to take drugs, especially when breastfeeding. In addition, the effectiveness of psychological treatment has been unclear.
Researchers, led by Dr Jane Morrell of the University of Huddersfield, assessed the costs, effectiveness and broad impact of two health visitor psychological interventions for postnatal depression. The trial involved 101 general practices in England, recruiting over 4,000 mothers to be randomised to receive either a cognitive behavioural approach or a person centred approach from specially trained health visitors, or to receive health visitor usual care.
Health visitors in the intervention group were trained to identify depressive symptoms and to use clinical assessment skills to assess a mother’s mood, including suicidal thoughts. They were also trained to deliver cognitive behavioural or person centred sessions for an hour per week for up to eight weeks. Validated scales were used to assess depressive symptoms and participants were followed up for 18 months and assessed every six months using a postal questionnaire.
The researchers found no benefit of one psychological approach over the other, but found both to be of benefit in reducing depressive symptoms compared with health visitor usual care.
To view the project details visit www.hta.ac.uk/1336 and to view the BMJ article visit http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/jan15_2/a2975
Notes for editors
1. The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) Programme funds research about the effectiveness, costs, and broader impact of health technologies for those who use, manage and provide care in the NHS. It is the largest NIHR programme and publishes the results of its research in the Health Technology Assessment journal, with over 600 issues published to date. The journal’s 2011 Impact Factor (4.255) ranked it in the top 10% of medical and health-related journals. All issues are available for download, free of charge, from the website. The HTA Programme is funded by the NIHR, with contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales, and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. www.hta.ac.uk.
2. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).
Paul Davey, Programme Manager (Communications)
Telephone: 02380 595 4309, Email: P.A.Davey@southampton.ac.uk