Cochrane Summaries

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Interventions (other than pharmacological, psychosocial or psychological) for treating antenatal depression

Dennis C, Dowswell T
Published Online: 
31 July 2013

There is not enough evidence available to determine if acupuncture, maternal massage, bright light therapy, or omega-3 fatty acids are effective interventions in treating antenatal depression.

Approximately 12% of women will suffer from depression during their pregnancy. Research suggests that women who experience significant stress, have a history of depression, lack social support, have a history of domestic violence, are not married and living alone, and have an unintended pregnancy or poor relationships may be at a higher risk than other women of developing antenatal depression. Symptoms can include overwhelming feelings of sadness and grief, loss of interest or pleasure in activities that are usually enjoyed, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor sleep, a change in appetite, severe fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Unfortunately, depression during pregnancy is related to poor maternal self-care behaviours, which may influence the baby's health; it also places a woman at significant risk of developing postpartum depression. Many women prefer not to take medication during their pregnancy and they are often interested in other complementary forms of treatment. The review found only six randomised controlled trials involving 402 women evaluating depression-specific acupuncture (the insertion of needles into the superficial body tissues for remedial purposes), maternal massage, bright light therapy, and omega-3 fatty acids for the treatment of antenatal depression. The included trials were too small to reach any conclusions; they also used a variety of interventions, outcome measures and comparisons. The trials provided insufficient evidence to determine if these therapies are effective treatments for antenatal depression. Further research is needed.