Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for post-partum depression (PPD): a systematic review of randomized clinical trials

J Affect Disord. 2014 Jan;152-154:39-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.09.019. Epub 2013 Oct 5.


Background: The treatment of postpartum depression with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has been claimed to be both efficacious and well tolerated, but no recent systematic reviews have been conducted.

Methods: A qualitative systematic review of randomized clinical trials on women with postpartum depression comparing SSRIs to placebo and/or other treatments was performed. A comprehensive literature search of online databases, the bibliographies of published articles and grey literature were conducted. Data on efficacy, acceptability and tolerability were extracted and the quality of the trials was assessed.

Results: Six randomised clinical trials, comprising 595 patients, met quality criteria for inclusion in the analysis. Cognitive-behavioural intervention, psychosocial community-based intervention, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, a second-generation tricyclic antidepressant and placebo were used as comparisons. All studies demonstrated higher response and remission rates among those treated with SSRIs and greater mean changes on depression scales, although findings were not always statistically significant. Dropout rates were high in three of the trials but similar among treatment and comparison groups. In general, SSRIs were well tolerated and trial quality was good.

Limitations: There are few trials, patients included in the trials were not representative of all patients with postpartum depression, dropout rates in three trials were high, and long-term efficacy and tolerability were assessed in only two trials.

Conclusions: SSRIs appear to be efficacious and well tolerated in the treatment of postpartum depression, but the available evidence fails to demonstrate a clear superiority over other treatments.

Keywords: Depression; Postpartum; Serotonin uptake inhibitors; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors