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J Affect Disord. 2013 Feb 20;145(2):208-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.07.033. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

The normalisation of disrupted attentional processing of infant distress in depressed pregnant women following Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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  • 1Academic Unit of Psychiatry, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK.



Maternal depression is associated with abnormal processing of infant distress. This may explain why depression disrupts maternal behaviour and ultimately child outcomes. Understanding and improving such processing, in depressed mothers as early as possible is thus important.


The focus of the current study was to investigate whether Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) normalises depressed pregnant women's abnormal attentional processing of infant distress.


Depressed pregnant women participating in a randomised control trial completed a measure of attentional bias for infant distress before and after intervention. Women received either CBT (n=12) or usual care [UC] (n=12) between their first and last trimesters of pregnancy.


At baseline, depressed women in both arms showed a diminished attentional bias for infant distress compared to a non-depressed comparison group (n=51). Following intervention attentional biases of women who received CBT increased becoming comparable to non-depressed women. In contrast there was no improvement in the UC arm.


If replicated, the findings may suggest that CBT during pregnancy improves mother's basic processing of infant stimuli before their child is born.


The sample size was relatively small and there was some loss to follow up between the pre and post intervention sessions.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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