Efficacy of interpersonal psychotherapy for postpartum depression

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000 Nov;57(11):1039-45. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.57.11.1039.


Background: Postpartum depression causes women great suffering and has negative consequences for their social relationships and for the development of their infants. Research is needed to evaluate the efficacy of psychotherapy for postpartum depression.

Methods: A total of 120 postpartum women meeting DSM-IV criteria for major depression were recruited from the community and randomly assigned to 12 weeks of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) or to a waiting list condition (WLC) control group. Subjects completed interview and self-report assessments of depressive symptoms and social adjustment every 4 weeks.

Results: Ninety-nine of the 120 patients completed the protocol. Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) scores of women receiving IPT declined from 19.4 to 8.3, a significantly greater decrease than occurred in the WLC group (19.8 to 16.8). The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) scores of women who received IPT declined from 23.6 to 10.6 over 12 weeks, a significantly greater decrease than occurred in the WLC group (23.0 to 19.2). A significantly greater proportion of women who received IPT recovered from their depressive episode based on HRSD scores of 6 or lower (37. 5%) and BDI scores of 9 or lower (43.8%) compared with women in the WLC group (13.7% and 13.7%, respectively). Women receiving IPT also had significant improvement on the Postpartum Adjustment Questionnaire and the Social Adjustment Scale-Self-Report relative to women in the WLC group.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that IPT is an efficacious treatment for postpartum depression. Interpersonal psychotherapy reduced depressive symptoms and improved social adjustment, and represents an alternative to pharmacotherapy, particularly for women who are breastfeeding.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychotherapy