Health visitors 'can treat postnatal depression'

Health visitors can be trained to identify and treat women with postnatal depression, according to UK research.

Photograph: iStockphoto/Damir Cudic
Photograph: iStockphoto/Damir Cudic

It is estimated that 13% of women in the UK experience postnatal depression in the year following the birth of their child.

The researchers randomly assigned 2,749 mothers to an intervention group and 1,335 mothers to a control group.

Mothers in the intervention group received care from health visitors who had been trained to identify depressive symptoms and deliver cognitive behavioural therapy for an hour per week for up to eight weeks.

The mothers in the control group received the usual care from their health visitor.

At both six and 12 months, the mothers who had received care from specially trained health visitors showed significantly greater reductions in depressive symptoms than those who received usual care.

Dr Cheryll Adams, Unite lead professional officer, strategy and practice development, said that a recent Unite/CPHVA survey revealed that of the 829 health visitors interviewed, a third reported that they were not confident that their NHS trust's service allowed cases of postnatal depression to be picked up.

She said: 'Recent cuts in health visitor workforces have led to the closure of many postnatal depression services delivered by health visitors.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

  • The full article will appear in 19 January’s issue of Independent Nurse

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