A Group-Based Online Intervention to Prevent Postpartum Depression (Sunnyside): Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial

JMIR Ment Health. 2019 May 28;6(5):e10778. doi: 10.2196/10778.


Background: Postpartum depression (PPD) has a 20% 3-month prevalence rate. The consequences of PPD are significant for the mother, infant, and the family. There is a need for preventive interventions for PPD, which are effective and accessible; however, many barriers exist for women who attempt to access perinatal depression prevention programs. Internet interventions for the treatment and prevention of depression are widely accepted as efficacious and may overcome some of the issues pertaining to access to treatment barriers perinatal women face. However, internet interventions offered without any human support tend to have low adherence but positive outcomes for those who do complete treatment. Internet support groups often have high levels of adherence but minimal data supporting efficacy as a treatment for depression. Taken together, these findings suggest that combining the treatment components of individual interventions with the support provided by an internet support group might create an intervention with the scalability and cost-effectiveness of an individual intervention and the better outcomes typically found in supported interventions.

Objectives: This study aimed to describe the development of a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) internet intervention with peer support to prevent PPD and examine preliminary depression and site usage outcomes.

Methods: User-centered design groups were used to develop the internet intervention. Once the intervention was developed, women who were 20 to 28 weeks pregnant with symptoms of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-8 scores of 5-14) but who had no major depression diagnosis were enrolled in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to compare 8 weeks of a CBT-based internet intervention with peer support to an individual internet intervention designed to prevent PPD. Assessments took place at baseline, 4 weeks, 8 weeks (end of treatment), and then 4 weeks and 6 weeks postpartum.

Results: A total of 25 women were randomized. Of these, 24 women completed the RCT. Patient Health Questionnaire-9 scores at 6 weeks postpartum remained below the clinical threshold for referral for treatment in both groups, with depression measures showing a decrease in symptoms from baseline to postpartum. At 6 weeks postpartum, only 4% (1/24) met the criteria for PPD. There was no difference between groups in adherence to the intervention, with an average of 14.55 log-ins over the course of treatment.

Conclusions: Results suggest women were responsive to both peer support and individual internet interventions to prevent PPD and that peer support may be a useful feature to keep participants adherent.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02121015; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02121015 (archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/765a7qBKy).

Keywords: cognitive behavioral therapy; internet; postpartum depression; social support.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02121015