New Study On PPD Peer Treatment Leaves Me Skeptical

As I’ve often said on this blog, any study that focuses a spotlight on Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a welcome sight. And if the research describes new methods of treatment, I’m doubly pleased.

But, at times, some of these reports leave me skeptical about their findings. For example, a new study out of the University of New Brunswick suggested that treating postpartum depression “could be easy and affordable.”

The study, published in a recent edition of the Journal of Advanced Nursing, found “just one call per week from a peer mentor who had overcome PPD dramatically reduced depression in new mothers within about three months.”

Wow! That’s quite a statement. But here’s the catch, the 64 New Brunswick participants were moderately depressed. Note the word “moderately.” So, perhaps it’s not surprising that of this group, at midpoint, only eight per cent showed symptoms of postpartum depression. By the end of the study, nearly 12 per cent were depressed, suggesting some relapse, said one of the authors of the study, Nicole Letourneau, a professor of nursing and medicine at the University of Calgary, who partnered with UNB for the study.

With these results, Letourneau concluded, “peer mentorship is vastly more effective than clinical therapy or medication. Typically, success rates for medication are 25 per cent. We had a 90 per cent success rate with just talking to women on the phone.”

Now I agree that some benefits of the study are that it does not stigmatize the women receiving the phone calls, and that is low cost and convenient. But, this is where I take issue with the report: in my experience, a once a week phone call from another sufferer is a minimal step up from getting no treatment at all. In the moderate-to-severe and severe-populations that I treat, I doubt a weekly phone call would suffice.

In my practice during intake, I always alert patients that they could get better without treatment, but it could take longer or they could also get worse. (A few years ago, Lancet Journal published some statistics that 25% of women who don’t get treatment, don’t get better.)

In my own mind, I suspect the women studied didn’t recover any faster than those who get better on their own.


~ by ppdsus on March 24, 2015.

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