Effect of couple-based cognitive behavioural intervention on prevention of postnatal depression: multisite randomised controlled trial

BJOG. 2020 Mar;127(4):500-507. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.15862. Epub 2019 Jul 7.


Objective: To compare a couple-based cognitive behavioural intervention (CBI) for postnatal depression with CBI delivered to women alone and control (standard perinatal care).

Design: Multisite randomised controlled trial.

Setting: Antenatal clinics at three regional public hospitals in Hong Kong.

Sample: 388 low-risk childbearing couples.

Methods: Childbearing couples were randomly allocated to couple-based CBI (n = 134), women-alone CBI (n = 124) or control (n = 130). The CBI consists of a 3-hour antenatal group session and two 30-minute postnatal telephone follow-up sessions.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was depressive symptoms, measured on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Assessments were collected at baseline (during pregnancy), 6 weeks, 6 months, and 12 months postpartum.

Results: Depressive symptoms were significantly more improved at 6 weeks postpartum for mothers in couple-based CBI than in women-alone CBI (difference 1.46, 95% CI 0.11-2.81) or control groups (difference 1.71, 95% CI 0.29-3.13). The proportion of mothers with postnatal depression (EPDS score ≥ 10) was significantly lower at 6 weeks postpartum in couple-based CBI than in control (difference 17.8%, 95% CI 3.6-32.0). However, the treatment effect was not maintained at 6 and 12 months. There was no significant intervention effect among fathers.

Conclusions: Couple-based CBI is more effective than CBI delivered to mothers alone and standard perinatal care in reducing the incidence of postnatal depression among Chinese mothers in the early postpartum period.

Tweetable abstract: Couple-based cognitive behavioural intervention is effective in reducing postnatal depression among Chinese mothers in the early postpartum period.

Keywords: Couple-based cognitive behavioural intervention; postnatal depression.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression, Postpartum / prevention & control*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prenatal Care / methods
  • Prenatal Care / psychology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*

Associated data

  • GENBANK/NCT02010840