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Health Technol Assess. 2016 May;20(37):1-414. doi: 10.3310/hta20370.

A systematic review, evidence synthesis and meta-analysis of quantitative and qualitative studies evaluating the clinical effectiveness, the cost-effectiveness, safety and acceptability of interventions to prevent postnatal depression.

Author information

School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Division of Health Sciences, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK.
School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
Lawrence S Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Clinical Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Division of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychology Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
Nottingham Experts Patients Group, Clinical Reference Group for Perinatal Mental Health, Nottingham, UK.
Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.



Postnatal depression (PND) is a major depressive disorder in the year following childbirth, which impacts on women, their infants and their families. A range of interventions has been developed to prevent PND.


To (1) evaluate the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, acceptability and safety of antenatal and postnatal interventions for pregnant and postnatal women to prevent PND; (2) apply rigorous methods of systematic reviewing of quantitative and qualitative studies, evidence synthesis and decision-analytic modelling to evaluate the preventive impact on women, their infants and their families; and (3) estimate cost-effectiveness.


We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index and other databases (from inception to July 2013) in December 2012, and we were updated by electronic alerts until July 2013.


Two reviewers independently screened titles and abstracts with consensus agreement. We undertook quality assessment. All universal, selective and indicated preventive interventions for pregnant women and women in the first 6 postnatal weeks were included. All outcomes were included, focusing on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), diagnostic instruments and infant outcomes. The quantitative evidence was synthesised using network meta-analyses (NMAs). A mathematical model was constructed to explore the cost-effectiveness of interventions contained within the NMA for EPDS values.


From 3072 records identified, 122 papers (86 trials) were included in the quantitative review. From 2152 records, 56 papers (44 studies) were included in the qualitative review. The results were inconclusive. The most beneficial interventions appeared to be midwifery redesigned postnatal care [as shown by the mean 12-month EPDS score difference of -1.43 (95% credible interval -4.00 to 1.36)], person-centred approach (PCA)-based and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)-based intervention (universal), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)-based intervention and education on preparing for parenting (selective), promoting parent-infant interaction, peer support, IPT-based intervention and PCA-based and CBT-based intervention (indicated). Women valued seeing the same health worker, the involvement of partners and access to several visits from a midwife or health visitor trained in person-centred or cognitive-behavioural approaches. The most cost-effective interventions were estimated to be midwifery redesigned postnatal care (universal), PCA-based intervention (indicated) and IPT-based intervention in the sensitivity analysis (indicated), although there was considerable uncertainty. Expected value of partial perfect information (EVPPI) for efficacy data was in excess of £150M for each population. Given the EVPPI values, future trials assessing the relative efficacies of promising interventions appears to represent value for money.


In the NMAs, some trials were omitted because they could not be connected to the main network of evidence or did not provide EPDS scores. This may have introduced reporting or selection bias. No adjustment was made for the lack of quality of some trials. Although we appraised a very large number of studies, much of the evidence was inconclusive.


Interventions warrant replication within randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Several interventions appear to be cost-effective relative to usual care, but this is subject to considerable uncertainty.


Several interventions appear to be cost-effective relative to usual care, but this is subject to considerable uncertainty. Future research conducting RCTs to establish which interventions are most clinically effective and cost-effective should be considered.


This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42012003273.


The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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