Health visitors can be trained to identify women with postnatal depression and offer effective treatment, while telephone peer support (mother to mother) may halve the risk of developing postnatal depression, suggests research published on bmj.com.
According to the research, new mothers who received help from health workers, or from other mothers who had experienced the condition, are less likely to develop symptoms or see early symptoms improve.
The research by Dr Jane Morrell and colleagues from the University of Sheffield studied 4,000 women who were either given cognitive behavioural therapy or person-centred therapy for an hour a week for eight weeks.
These results were compared with a third group of women who received the usual level of care.
The study found that both forms of psychological support led to a reduction in depressive symptoms when compared with women receiving the usual level of care.
Mothers displaying symptoms six weeks after giving birth and given this kind of support were 40% less likely to have the symptoms six months after birth than women receiving usual care.
The authors conclude: "Training health visitors to assess women, identify symptoms of postnatal depression, and deliver psychologically informed sessions was clinically effective at six and 12 months postnatally compared with usual care."
Research also found that telephone support had a positive impact on the condition, with those receiving the support half as likely to develop postnatal depression as those who did not.