Maternal depression: A review of relevant treatment approaches for mothers and infants

Infant Ment Health J. 2006 Jul;27(4):327-343. doi: 10.1002/imhj.20095.


The negative impact of postpartum depression on the mother-infant relationship and infant development more generally has been well documented. Compared to infants of nondepressed mothers, infants of depressed mothers have been shown to be less securely attached to their caregivers and often have cognitive, emotional, and behavioral deficits that persist well into childhood. Recent evidence has suggested that reduction of maternal depressive symptoms may itself not be sufficient to prevent negative effects on children. Rather, treatments that target the mother-infant relationship may have great potential in providing a buffer against the potentially damaging effects of postpartum depression. Based on our review of several treatment-outcome studies, we conclude that mother-infant psychotherapies and home-based interventions are generally efficacious in their goal of ameliorating detrimental consequences for children of depressed mothers. Nonetheless, the field must continue to investigate the extent to which treatment gains are maintained over time and the mechanisms by which protective effects occur. It is likely that the most efficacious treatment approaches will be those that address the needs of the mother, the infant, and their relationship.