Tackling perinatal depression with the help of peers

Two new research studies from India and Pakistan suggest that women without formal health training can help other women suffering from perinatal depression.

Perinatal depression—depression that occurs during pregnancy or within the first year after a woman has a baby—affects up to 25% of all women.

In India, researchers analyzed the effectiveness of an intervention known to promote recovery from depression when it was delivered by peers without previous health training. The study looked at outcomes in a group of 280 pregnant women who screened positive for depression, half of whom received the peer-delivered intervention and half of whom received usual care. The study found that the women who received the intervention fared better than the control group in the six months after childbirth. Women in the Pakistan study who received the intervention also fared better than women who didn’t.

Vikram Patel, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a January 25, 2019 IndianExpress article that the findings suggest that peers could potentially serve as a new cadre of health care workers to help tackle maternal depression in India, which often goes untreated because of a lack of human resources and ill-equipped health systems.

Patel was senior author of the India study and a co-author of the Pakistan study.

Read the IndianExpress article: A programme where mothers help each other recover from perinatal depression in India and Pak: Lancet