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Original Research

Peer-Delivered Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Postpartum Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Bahar Amani, MAa,*; Donya Merza, BAa; Calan Savoy, MScb; David Streiner, PhDb; Peter Bieling, PhDb; Mark A. Ferro, PhDc; and Ryan J. Van Lieshout, MD, PhDb

Published: November 9, 2021


Objective: To determine if a 9-week group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention delivered by women who have recovered from postpartum depression (peers) can effectively reduce symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety and improve social support and the mother-infant relationship.

Methods: A sample of 73 mothers living in Ontario, Canada, were randomized into experimental and waitlist control groups between March 2018 and February 2020. Participants were ≥ 18 years of age, had an infant < 12 months old, were fluent in English, and scored ≥ 10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The experimental group completed the 9-week group CBT intervention immediately after study enrollment, while the control group did so after a 9-week waiting period. All outcomes were assessed at enrollment (n = 54) and 9 weeks later (n = 38). Outcomes were assessed in the experimental group at 6 months to assess treatment stability.

Results: Peer-delivered group CBT for PPD led to clinically and statistically significant improvements in symptoms of depression (F1,47 = 22.52, P < .01) and anxiety (F1,45 = 20.56, P < .05) in the experimental group, and these improvements were stable at the 6-month follow-up. Perceptions of impaired mother-infant bonding (t15 = 3.72, P < .01) and rejection and pathological anger (t15 = 3.01, P < .01) also decreased at the 6-month follow-up in the experimental group.

Conclusions: Peer-delivered group CBT for PPD effectively treats symptoms of PPD and anxiety and may lead to improvements in the mother-infant relationship. This intervention is an effective and potentially scalable means by which access to a treatment that meets the needs and wants of mothers with PPD can be increased.

Trial Registration: Identifier: NCT03285139

Volume: 83

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