The effect of peer support on postpartum depression: a pilot randomized controlled trial

Can J Psychiatry. 2003 Mar;48(2):115-24. doi: 10.1177/070674370304800209.


Objective: To evaluate the effect of peer support (mother-to-mother) on depressive symptomatology among mothers identified as high-risk for postpartum depression (PPD).

Method: Forty-two mothers in British Columbia were identified as high-risk for PPD according to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and randomly assigned to either a control group (that is, to standard community postpartum care) or an experimental group. The experimental group received standard care plus telephone-based peer support, initiated within 48 to 72 hours of randomization, from a mother who previously experienced PPD and attended a 4-hour training session. Research assistants blind to group allocation conducted follow-up assessments on diverse outcomes, including depressive symptomatology, at 4 and 8 weeks postrandomization.

Results: Significant group differences were found in probable major depressive symptomatology (EPDS > 12) at the 4-week (chi 2 = 5.18, df = 1; P = 0.02) and 8-week (chi 2 = 6.37, df = 1; P = 0.01) assessments. Specifically, at the 4-week assessment 40.9% (n = 9) of mothers in the control group scored > 12 on the EPDS, compared with only 10% (n = 2) in the experimental group. Similar findings were found at the 8-week assessment, when 52.4% (n = 11) of mothers in the control group scored > 12 on the EPDS, compared with 15% (n = 3) of mothers in the experimental group. Of the 16 mothers in the experimental group who evaluated the intervention, 87.5% were satisfied with their peer-support experience.

Conclusions: Telephone-based peer support may effectively decrease depressive symptomatology among new mothers. The high maternal satisfaction with, and acceptance of, the intervention suggests that a larger trial is feasible.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child Care
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Peer Group*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires