Phone Support Cuts Antidepressant Use For Post-Partum Depression

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to a nursing study from the University of Toronto, high-risk women who received peer telephone support experienced a 50% reduction in symptoms of post-partum depression. Telephone support provided the women with a drug-free option for treating post-partum depression, especially important for breast feeding moms.

The evaluation, led by Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, an associate professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty showed that twelve weeks following birth, high-risk women had half the risk of showing signs of post-partum depression when they received telephone-based support from other women who had also experienced depression following birth. Peer support and caring yielded an 80% satisfaction rate among the women who participated. The women also said they would recommend the program to a friend.

The study included more than 21,000 women in Ontario. Of those, 701 women were considered high risk for post-partum depression. The high-risk women received either standard post-partum care, or telephone support from a volunteer who had also suffered from post-partum depression.

According to Dr. Dennis, "Women and family members need to be educated about postnatal depression so they can recognize the symptoms. Treatment needs to be convenient and accessible to new mothers."


Post-partum depression can become so severe that women consider harm to themselves and their infants. Dr. Dennis recommends that all healthcare providers be alert to the symptoms of post-partum depression in women, including nurse mid-wives, physicians, nurses, family members and visitors.

The study was web-based, making it convenient for the mothers to participate. Telephone support for post-partum depression is a consideration that should be made widely available to high risk women, in lieu of anti-depressants.

Symptoms of post-partum depression include loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue that interferes with normal activities, and withdrawal from family and friends. A most worrisome symptom of post-partum depression includes inability of new mothers to bond with their babies. Post-partum depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm and harm to the infant. If severe, harm can actually occur.

Identifying mothers who are at high risk for post-partum depression is the first step. Telephone support for women at high risk could be easily implemented by hospitals or physicians, or community programs, providing mothers with a drug-free option for treating post-partum depression.

Source: Nursing study concludes postnatal depression can possibly be prevented drug-free