Treatment of depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders during the perinatal period: A systematic review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2018 Dec:66:136-148. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2018.06.004. Epub 2018 Jun 9.


Women with psychiatric disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period (i.e., perinatal period) are at increased risk for adverse maternal and child outcomes. Effective treatment of psychiatric disorders during the perinatal period is imperative. This review summarizes the outcomes of 78 studies focused on the treatment of depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders during the perinatal period. The majority of studies focused on perinatal depression (n = 73). Of the five studies focused on anxiety or trauma-related disorders, only one was a randomized controlled trial (RCT). The most studied treatment was cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT; n = 22), followed by interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT; n = 13). Other interventions reviewed include other talk therapies (n = 5), collaborative care models (n = 2), complementary and alternative medicine approaches (n = 18), light therapy (n = 3), brain stimulation (n = 2), and psychopharmacological interventions (n = 13). Eleven studies focused specifically on treatment for low-income and/or minority women. Both CBT and IPT demonstrated a significant benefit over control conditions. However, findings were mixed when these interventions were examined in low-income and/or minority samples. There is some support for complementary and alternative medicine approaches (e.g., exercise). Although scarce, SSRIs demonstrated good efficacy when compared to a placebo. However, SSRIs did not outperform another active treatment condition (e.g., CBT). There is a tremendous need for more studies focused on treatment of perinatal anxiety and trauma-related disorders, as well as psychopharmacological effectiveness studies. Limitations and future directions of perinatal treatment research, particularly among low-income and/or minority populations, are discussed.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; Postpartum; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Pregnancy; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders / therapy*