Background: Postnatal depression can have long term adverse consequences for the mother-infant relationship and the infant's development. Improving a mother's depression per se has been found to have little impact on mother-infant interaction. The aims of this study were to determine whether attending regular massage classes could reduce maternal depression and also improve the quality of mother-infant interaction.
Method: Thirty-four primiparous depressed mothers, median 9 weeks postpartum, identified as being depressed following completion of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 4 weeks postpartum, were randomly allocated either to an infant massage class and a support group (massage group) or to a support group (control group). Each group attended for five weekly sessions. Changes in maternal depression and mother-infant interaction were assessed at the beginning and the end of the study by comparing EPDS scores and ratings of videotaped mother-infant interaction.
Results: The EPDS scores fell in both groups. Significant improvement of mother-infant interaction was seen only in the massage group.
Limitation: The sample size was small and had relatively high dropout. It was not possible to distinguish which aspects of the infant massage class contributed to the benefit.
Conclusion: This study suggests that learning the practice of infant massage by mothers is an effective treatment for facilitating mother-infant interaction in mothers with postnatal depression.