Feasibility of a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy group intervention as an adjunctive treatment for postpartum depression and anxiety

J Affect Disord. 2018 Aug 1:235:61-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.12.065. Epub 2018 Jan 2.


Background: Many women experience moderate-to-severe depression and anxiety in the postpartum period for which pharmacotherapy is often the first-line treatment. Many breastfeeding mothers are reticent to increase their dose or consider additional medication, despite incomplete response, due to potential adverse effects on their newborn. These mothers are amenable to non-pharmacological intervention for complete symptom remission. The current study evaluated the feasibility of an eight-week mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) intervention as an adjunctive treatment for postpartum depression and anxiety.

Methods: Women were recruited at an outpatient reproductive mental health clinic based at a maternity hospital. Participants had a diagnosis of postpartum depression/anxiety within the first year following childbirth. They were enrolled in either the MBCT intervention group (n = 14) or the treatment-as-usual control group (n = 16), and completed the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) questionnaire, and the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) at baseline and at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, and 3 months following baseline.

Results: Multivariate analyses demonstrated that depression and anxiety levels decreased, and mindfulness levels increased, in the MBCT group, but not in the control group. Many of the between-group and over time comparisons displayed trends towards significance, although these differences were not always statistically significant. Additionally, the effect sizes for anxiety, depression, and mindfulness were frequently large, indicating that the MBCT intervention may have had a clinically significant effect on participants.

Limitations: Limitations include small sample size and the non-equivalent control group design.

Conclusions: We demonstrated that MBCT has potential as an adjunctive, non-pharmacological treatment for postpartum depression/anxiety that does not wholly remit with pharmacotherapy. (249 words).

Keywords: Cognitive therapy; Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy; Postnatal depression; Postpartum anxiety; Postpartum depression.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome