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Birth. 2001 Mar;28(1):28-35.

Perinatal depression: a randomized controlled trial of an antenatal education intervention for primiparas.

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  • 1Nursing, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia.



Depression can be an unexpected and distressing companion for a woman during the major life transition of becoming a mother for the first time. Researchers now demonstrate that approximately 50 percent of women will experience perinatal distress. Therefore, the etiology and management of perinatal depression is essential for a quality care of childbearing women. The objectives of this study were to develop an education intervention tailored to the information needs of primiparous women about perinatal depression, to deliver this intervention antenatally, and to conduct a randomized controlled trial to determine the effect of the antenatal education intervention in the reduction of postnatal depression.


A prospective, randomized controlled trial of the education intervention (n = 206) was conducted at three sites in Australia. The outcome of changes in mood state was measured by the Profile of Mood States questionnaire once antenatally (12-28 wk), and twice postnatally (8-12 and 16-24 wk); social support and demographic data were also collected. The education package was administered to the intervention group at the antenatal assessment of mood.


A significant and steady reduction in scores (overall and on the subscales) was observed over time for both groups that showed significant improvement in symptoms of depression. No difference was detected when comparing the intervention group with the control group. Additional multivariate regression analyses revealed no relevant influence of social support or demographic variables.


Women in both the study and control groups were more depressed antenatally than postnatally. The finding that the education intervention made no difference challenges the two strongly held tenets of health education in childbearing women-that depression can be reduced through education and that antenatal education interventions can endure into the postnatal period.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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