Web-based interventions for prevention and treatment of perinatal mood disorders: a systematic review

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016 Feb 29:16:38. doi: 10.1186/s12884-016-0831-1.


Background: Perinatal depression is strikingly common with a prevalence of 10-15%. The adverse effects of perinatal depression on maternal and child health are profound with considerable costs. Despite this, few women seek medical attention. E-health, providing healthcare via the Internet is an accessible and effective solution for the treatment of depression in the general population. We aimed to conduct a systematic review of web-based interventions for the prevention and treatment of mood disorders in the perinatal period, defined as the start of pregnancy to 1 year post-partum.

Methods: Six databases were searched until 26(th) March 2015. Two researchers independently screened articles for eligibility. Of the 547 screened articles, four met the inclusion criteria. These included three randomised-controlled trials and one feasibility trial, with total data from 1274 participants. MOOSE and PRISMA guidelines were adhered to for the conduct and reporting of the systematic review.

Results: All studies were conducted in the post-partum period. All reported an improvement in maternal mood following intervention. A significant improvement in depressive symptoms was measured using validated rating scales, such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), either at post-treatment or follow-up which ranged from 3 to 12 months post study completion. For the two RCTs utilising the EPDS, the EPDS score reductions were (mean ± SEM) 8.52 ± 0.22 (Range 19.46 to10.94) and 9.19 ± 0.63 (Range, 20.24 to 11.05) for treatment groups and 5.16 ± 0.25 (Range 19.44 to 14.28) and 6.81 ± 0.71 (Range 21.07 to 14.26) for comparator groups. However attrition within studies ranged from 13 to 61%. One study was rated as 'good' quality.

Conclusions: Preliminary data suggests web-based therapies for perinatal depression delivered in the post-partum period may play a role in improving maternalmood but more studies are needed, particularly with interventions delivered antenatally. Further research is needed to address the limitations of the existing evidence base.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Postpartum Period / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Young Adult