Family treatment for postpartum depression: acceptability, feasibility, and preliminary clinical outcomes

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The level of support from family members—and degree of family dysfunction—can shape the onset and course of maternal postpartum depression (PPD). In spite of this, family members are typically not included in treatments for PPD. Developing and disseminating intervention approaches that involve partners or other family members may lead to more effective treatment for perinatal women and potentially promote improved family functioning and wellbeing of multiple members of the family. To evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of a family-based treatment for PPD, we conducted an open pilot trial with 16 postpartum mother-father couples (N = 32 participants) and measured session attendance, patient satisfaction, and changes in key symptoms and functional outcomes. At the time of enrollment, mothers were 1–7 months postpartum, met criteria for major depressive disorder, and had moderate-severe symptoms of depression. Treatment involved 10–12 sessions attended by the mother along with an identified family member (all fathers) at each session. Findings provide strong support for the acceptability and feasibility of the intervention: session attendance rates were high, and participants evaluated the treatment as highly acceptable. Improvements in depression were observed among both mothers and fathers, and family functioning improved by the endpoint across several domains. Symptomatic and functional gains were sustained at follow-up. The current findings provide support for a larger randomized trial of family-based treatment for PPD.

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Archives of Women's Mental Health

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postpartum depression, family treatment, fathers, partners, feasibility