Postpartum depression estimated prevalence in women is between 5 and 26% and it has adverse effects both on the mother, infant and her partner. Psychological treatments have proved to be effective for women with mild-to-moderate symptoms. Whereas several systematic reviews have assessed the effects of different psychological interventions for postpartum depression, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy, no review assessing psychodynamic therapy has been carried out. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy for postpartum depression.
Studies were identified using the following databases: PsycINFO, Psycarticles and Pubmed over January 2023. The requirements for the studies were the following: they had to be quantitative, available in English, including a psychodynamic intervention targeting treatment or prevention of postpartum depression which starts during pregnancy or within the first 12 months after giving birth. Case studies, qualitative studies or studies focused on improving parent-infant relationship or infant outcome were excluded from this research.
Seven trials including 521 women met the inclusion criteria. In summary, three randomized controlled trials and four longitudinal studies were found. The most frequently used assessment tool was EPDS, five were individual interventions and the other two were group interventions.
All studies reported the efficacy of psychodynamic interventions for postpartum depression, both in home and clinical settings and both in group and individual format. The limited number of trials, small sample sizes and lack of appropriate control groups were the main limitations.
Conclusions for practice
Psychodynamic therapy is probably efficient intervention for postpartum depression. Future research with strong methodological designs is needed to confirm these findings.
What is already known on this subject? Several systematic reviews have assessed the effects of different psychological interventions for postpartum depression, but no review assessing psychodynamic therapy has been carried out. What this study adds? A systematic review was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of psychodynamic therapy for postpartumdepression. This makes the systematic review a unique contribution to the literature.
Historically parent’s mental health during the perinatal period has been overlooked, as it was conceived as a time of joy and emotional stability. Only in 1950’s some authors started to write about maternity blues, postpartum depression, and puerperal psychosis (Besser et al., 2008). Studies have generally targeted mothers and their psychological wellbeing. On the contrary, paternal mental health remains under-investigated even though non-gestational parents may also suffer from mental disorders in the peripartum period.
Postpartum depression encompasses a depression disorder occurring within the 12 months following childbirth (Branquinho et al., 2021) and the disorder can be compared to a major depressive episode in any moment of a woman’s life. However, symptoms such as anxiety, anhedonia, aggressive obsessional thoughts, restlessness or concentration and decision-making difficulties are more frequent or severe in the immediate postpartum (Batt et al., 2020). Postpartum depression has adverse effects on the woman and, therefore, on the infant as the disorder is closely related to difficulty to carry out different parenting tasks, such as breastfeeding, sleeping, or responding to the infant’s needs (Branquinho et al., 2021; Nanzer et al., 2012). It is also the strongest predictor of paternal depression during the perinatal period (Kaźmierczak et al., 2020). In addition, it is one of the main causes of maternal deaths in the first year after childbirth as the mother may develop suicidal thoughts and intentions. (Al-Halabí et al., 2021). The estimated prevalence of postpartum depression in women varies across countries, assessment criteria or time frame ranging from 5 to 26% (Liu et al., 2022).
Psychodynamic approach still plays a minor role in the mainstream theory, research, and treatment for postpartum depression, even though the amount of data has kept growing for the last decade. BDP is probably efficient intervention for postpartum depression. Therefore, it is suggested that research should be continued to assess the effectiveness of psychodynamic interventions in postpartum depression compared to other effective treatments.