Background: Although postpartum depression is a highly prevalent illness, antidepressant treatment studies of postpartum depression are sparse. Incomplete recognition and treatment of puerperal illness place women at risk for chronic depression and may have adverse effects on child development.
Method: An 8-week, flexible-dose, open study of venlafaxine (immediate release; mean dose = 162.5 mg/day) was performed in a group of 15 women who met DSM-III-R criteria for major depressive disorder with onset within the first 3 months postpartum. Patients were assessed at baseline and every 2 weeks across the study. Measurements of outcome included the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), the Kellner Symptom Questionnaire, and the Clinical Global Impressions scale (CGI).
Results: Despite baseline scores of depression that were particularly high, response to treatment was robust. Twelve of 15 patients experienced remission of major depression (HAM-D score < or = 7 or CGI score < or = 2). Dramatic decrease in anxiety paralleled the decrease in depression across the sample.
Conclusion: Venlafaxine is effective in the treatment of postpartum major depression. Early identification of women who suffer from postpartum mood disturbance is critical to minimize the morbidity associated with untreated mood disturbance and the effect of depression on children and families.