Group treatment for postpartum depression: a systematic review

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious public health problem affecting 10% to 15% of women during the first year after delivery with negative consequences for both mother and infant. There is a need for evidence-based interventions to treat this disorder. Thus, the purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature regarding group treatment for PPD to determine the current state of knowledge regarding the efficacy of this treatment modality for reducing depressive symptoms in postpartum women. A systematic search of published and unpublished literature using the electronic databases Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane Database, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Current Controlled Trials, and Dissertation Abstracts through March 2011, supplemented by hand searches, identified 11 studies which met inclusion criteria: six were randomized controlled trials and five were non-randomized trials which utilized non-equivalent control or comparison groups. All but one study showed statistically significant improvement in depression scores from pretreatment to post-treatment, suggesting that group treatment is effective in reducing PPD symptoms. The review provides initial support for the role of group therapy in the treatment of PPD; however, caution is advised in making generalized interpretations of the findings as there was considerable heterogeneity of the studies included and the quality of the studies was mixed. Overall, the review reveals significant gaps in the current evidence base for group treatment for PPD and recommendations for further research is discussed.