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Interventions to Prevent Perinatal DepressionUS Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement

Educational Objective
To review the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations regarding interventions to prevent perinatal depression.
1 Credit CME

Importance  Perinatal depression, which is the occurrence of a depressive disorder during pregnancy or following childbirth, affects as many as 1 in 7 women and is one of the most common complications of pregnancy and the postpartum period. It is well established that perinatal depression can result in adverse short- and long-term effects on both the woman and child.

Objective  To issue a new US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation on interventions to prevent perinatal depression.

Evidence Review  The USPSTF reviewed the evidence on the benefits and harms of preventive interventions for perinatal depression in pregnant or postpartum women or their children. The USPSTF reviewed contextual information on the accuracy of tools used to identify women at increased risk of perinatal depression and the most effective timing for preventive interventions. Interventions reviewed included counseling, health system interventions, physical activity, education, supportive interventions, and other behavioral interventions, such as infant sleep training and expressive writing. Pharmacological approaches included the use of nortriptyline, sertraline, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Findings  The USPSTF found convincing evidence that counseling interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, are effective in preventing perinatal depression. Women with a history of depression, current depressive symptoms, or certain socioeconomic risk factors (eg, low income or young or single parenthood) would benefit from counseling interventions and could be considered at increased risk. The USPSTF found adequate evidence to bound the potential harms of counseling interventions as no greater than small, based on the nature of the intervention and the low likelihood of serious harms. The USPSTF found inadequate evidence to assess the benefits and harms of other noncounseling interventions. The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that providing or referring pregnant or postpartum women at increased risk to counseling interventions has a moderate net benefit in preventing perinatal depression.

Conclusions and Recommendation  The USPSTF recommends that clinicians provide or refer pregnant and postpartum persons who are at increased risk of perinatal depression to counseling interventions. (B recommendation)

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Susan J. Curry, PhD (

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: Susan J. Curry, PhD; Alex H. Krist, MD, MPH; Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS; Michael J. Barry, MD; Aaron B. Caughey, MD, PhD; Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc; Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH; John W. Epling Jr, MD, MSEd; David C. Grossman, MD, MPH; Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, MS; Martha Kubik, PhD, RN; C. Seth Landefeld, MD; Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH; Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH; Chien-Wen Tseng, MD, MPH, MSEE; John B. Wong, MD.

Affiliations of The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: University of Iowa, Iowa City (Curry); Fairfax Family Practice Residency, Fairfax, Virginia (Krist); Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (Krist); Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California (Owens); Stanford University, Stanford, California (Owens); Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Barry); Oregon Health & Science University, Portland (Caughey); Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York (Davidson); University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Doubeni); Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke (Epling); Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle (Grossman); Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio (Kemper); Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Kubik); University of Alabama at Birmingham (Landefeld); University of California, Los Angeles (Mangione); Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Silverstein); Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois (Simon); University of Hawaii, Honolulu (Tseng); Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii (Tseng); Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts (Wong).

Accepted for Publication: January 3, 2019.

Author Contributions: Dr Curry had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. The USPSTF members contributed equally to the recommendation statement.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings.

Funding/Support: The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary body. The US Congress mandates that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) support the operations of the USPSTF.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: AHRQ staff assisted in the following: development and review of the research plan, commission of the systematic evidence review from an Evidence-based Practice Center, coordination of expert review and public comment of the draft evidence report and draft recommendation statement, and the writing and preparation of the final recommendation statement and its submission for publication. AHRQ staff had no role in the approval of the final recommendation statement or the decision to submit for publication.

Disclaimer: Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the US government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Additional Contributions: We thank Justin Mills, MD, MPH (AHRQ), who contributed to the writing of the manuscript, and Lisa Nicolella, MA (AHRQ), who assisted with coordination and editing.

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