The effects of psychological treatment of perinatal depression: an overview

Pim Cuijpers*, Eirini Karyotaki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Perinatal depression is an important public health problem. Psychological interventions play an essential role in the treatment of depression. In the current paper, we will present the results of a series of meta-analyses on psychological treatments of perinatal depression. We report the results of a series of meta-analyses on psychological treatments of depression, including perinatal depression. The meta-analyses are based on a database of randomized trials on psychotherapies for depression that has been systematically developed and updated every year. Psychological interventions are effective in the treatment of perinatal depression with a moderate effect size of g = 0.67, corresponding with a NNT of about 4. These effects were still significant at 12 months after the start of the treatment. These interventions also have significant effects on social support, anxiety, functional impairment, parental stress, and marital stress. Possibly the effects are overestimated because of the use of waiting list control groups, the low quality of the majority of trials and publication bias. Research on psychotherapies for depression in general has shown that there are no significant differences between the major types of therapy, except for non-directive counseling that may have somewhat smaller effects. CBT can also be delivered in individual, group, telephone, and guided self-help format. Interventions in subthreshold depression are also effective and may prevent the onset of a full-blown depressive disorder, while therapies may be less effective in chronic depression. Psychological interventions are effective and deserve their place as first-line treatment of perinatal depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-806
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Women's Mental Health
Issue number5
Early online date6 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Major depression
  • Meta-analysis
  • Perinatal depression
  • Psychotherapy


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