Background: Postnatal depression can be a long lasting condition which affects both the mother and her baby. A pilot study indicated that attending baby massage improved maternal depression and mother-infant interactions. The current study further investigates any benefits of baby massage for mothers with postnatal depression and their infants.
Methods: Mothers scoring (3)13 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 4 weeks postpartum were randomly assigned to attend baby massage classes (n=31) or a support group (n=31). They completed depression, anxiety and Infant Characteristics Questionnaires and were filmed interacting with their infants before and after 6 intervention sessions, and at one year. Thirty four non-depressed mothers also completed the study.
Results: More of the massage than support group mothers showed a clinical reduction in EPDS scores between four weeks and outcome (p<0.05). At one year, massage-group mothers had non-depressed levels of sensitivity of interaction with their babies, whereas the support group did not. There were no other differences in either mother or child between the two intervention groups. Depressed mothers did not achieve control depression or anxiety scores at one year.
Limitations: For ethical reasons, the study did not include a control group of depressed mothers who did not receive an intervention.
Conclusions: Both intervention groups showed reductions in depression scores across the study period, but the massage group did better on some indices. They also had somewhat better interactions with their infants at one year, but these effects were limited.