In one of the largest psychotherapy trials in the world, researchers have found cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is highly effective in helping mothers with perinatal depression get better, and make smarter economic choices.
Perinatal depression is experienced during pregnancy or in the first year after birth, and is estimated to affect between 12 and 20 per cent of women in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, and 20-35 per cent of women in poorer countries.
Dr Baranov says her main motivation was to see if treating perinatally-depressed women with CBT could help them be more economically empowered, and make better financial decisions for their families. CBT is a simple, talking therapy that encourages people to think about their circumstances differently.
“We wanted to know if CBT could affect the decisions women made about household spending, and the time and money they invested in their children,” Dr Baranov explains.
In 2005-6, all the women in the trial received routine health and maternal services from government-funded community health workers, while half also had CBT.
The CBT was carried out by the community health workers, who were trained to deliver the therapy.
Over the course of a year, the women in the treatment group had 16 CBT sessions during home visits, starting in the third trimester and finishing when the children were 10 months old.
The follow-up at one year after the first treatment showed a 73 per cent reduction in depression rates amongst the women who received the CBT, compared with a 41 per cent reduction for the control group.