Get access

Targeted group antenatal prevention of postnatal depression: a review


  • M.-P. Austin

    1. Senior Conjoint Lecturer, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Consultant Psychiatrist Royal Hospital for Women and Mood Disorders Unit, Black Dog Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author

Marie-Paule Austin, Department Liaison Psychiatry, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick 2031, Sydney, Australia


Objective:  To review the efficacy of antenatal group interventions aimed at reducing postnatal depression (PND) in ‘at risk’ women.

Method:  Medline, Psyclit, HEALTHSTAR, EMBASE, Cochrane library, UK National Research Register and CINHAL searches were performed from 1960 to December 2001 focussing on randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Results:  As statistical synthesis of the studies was not feasible, a qualitative review is provided. All five studies reviewed suffer from substantial limitations including small numbers; unrealistic effect sizes; large attrition rates; lack of a systematic approach in identifying those ‘at risk’ and thus clinically heterogenous samples. Three of the studies used unvalidated interventions that were educational or supportive in approach. While one such study reported a benefit of intervention, the largest study using a structured intervention, reported no effect. A very small study using interpersonal therapy, was promising but needs replication with an adequate sample size.

Conclusion:  There is currently little evidence from RCTs to support the implementation of antenatal group interventions to reduce PND in ‘at risk’ women. Further studies addressing the significant methodological limitations are recommended before concluding that antenatal targeted interventions have no place in maternity care.