Mother-Infant Psychotherapy May Prevent, Reduce Postpartum Depression

Tired Mother Suffering From Post Natal Depression
Researchers conducted a literature search to assess the impact of mother-infant psychotherapy on maternal mood, mother-infant bonding, and infant attachment.

Mother-infant psychotherapy (MIP) may prevent postpartum depression (PPD) or reduce the negative effects of PPD, according to a recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

An estimated 3% to 19% of postpartum women experience PPD, which constitutes a major public health issue worldwide. It can impair bonding between mother and child and infant attachment, while also resulting in poor cognitive function. In MIP, the mother and infant are treated together in an effort to improve the mother-infant relationship and foster infant attachment and development.

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Ruirui Huang, of Xiang Ya Nursing School of Central South University and the School of Nursing, Hunan University of Medicine, Huaihua, Hunan, China, and colleagues conducted a literature search on PubMed, Cochrane Library, EMBase, and MEDLINE, among others, and identified 13 randomized controlled trials of MIP in a total of 1141 postpartum women-infants dyads. Most mothers were depressed, and infants were younger than 24 months at study entry. The authors assessed quality of evidence with the Cochrane risk of bias tool.

MIP reduced standardized mean depressive scores (RR = -0.25; 95% CI, -0.40 to -0.09; P=.07) and risk ratio (RR = 0.71; 95% CI, 0.55-0.91; P=.007) in the short-term effect analysis among postpartum women. However, in the long-term analysis, MIP did not improve maternal mood, mother-infant interaction, or infant attachment. These findings were limited by the clinical heterogeneity of the MIP interventions in the included studies and the possibility of differences in the trimester of pregnancy, as well as the intensity, frequency, or type of MIP provided.

The authors concluded that MIP therapy may be an effective method for treating maternal depression in the short-term. They called for future large-scale studies to confirm the short-term effects of MIP on depression and to investigate the long-term effects of these interventions.

The authors cautioned, “The intervention provider may play an important role to enhance maternal sensitive responsiveness and promote positive mother–infant interactions. As a result, experienced mother–infant psychologists maybe needed to implement the intervention.”


Huang RR, Yang D, Lei B, et al. The short- and long-term effectiveness of mother-infant psychotherapy on postpartum depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis [Published online September 11, 2019]. J Affect Disord.