Background: Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) has demonstrated efficacy for the prevention and treatment of perinatal depression. Previous systematic reviews have not evaluated the effects of IPT on other outcomes, most notably symptoms of anxiety and interpersonal functioning, or assessed moderators of treatment efficacy specific to IPT.
Method: A systematic review identified 28 studies assessing the efficacy of IPT during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. Random effects meta-analyses assessed the average change in outcomes (depression, anxiety, relationship quality, social adjustment, and social support) from pre- to post-treatment, the difference in the change in outcomes between treatment and comparison conditions, and the difference in prevalence of depressive episodes between treatment and comparison conditions. Study, intervention, and sample characteristics were evaluated as potential moderators of effect sizes.
Results: In prevention studies, IPT was effective for reducing depressive symptoms and the prevalence of depressive episodes. In treatment studies, IPT reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety and improved relationship quality, social adjustment and social support. Few significant moderators were identified, and results of moderation analyses were inconsistent across outcomes.
Limitations: There are insufficient studies to evaluate the effects of preventive IPT on anxiety and interpersonal outcomes. Analyses of potential moderators were limited by the number of studies available for subgroup comparisons.
Conclusions: IPT is an effective preventive intervention for perinatal depression. IPT is clearly effective for treating depressive symptoms and promising as a treatment for anxiety and improving interpersonal functioning. Further research is necessary to assess whether adaptations to IPT enhance its efficacy.
Keywords: Interpersonal psychotherapy; Meta-analysis; Postpartum; Pregnancy; Prevention; Treatment.
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