Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Counselling in a general practice setting: controlled study of health visitor intervention in treatment of postnatal depression.

British Medical Journal 1989; 298 doi: (Published 28 January 1989) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1989;298:223
  1. J. M. Holden,
  2. R. Sagovsky,
  3. J. L. Cox
  1. Department of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine whether counselling by health visitors is helpful in managing postnatal depression. DESIGN--Controlled, random order trial. SETTING--Health centres in Edinburgh and Livingston. PATIENTS--Sixty women identified as depressed by screening at six weeks post partum and by psychiatric interview at about 13 weeks post partum. Five women did not wish to participate, and a further five did not complete the trial. Age, social and obstetric factors, and diagnosis were similar in women who completed the trial and those who withdrew. INTERVENTION--Eight weekly counselling visits by health visitors who had been given a short training in counselling for postnatal depression. END POINT--Reduction of depression. MEASUREMENTS and main results--Standardised psychiatric interviews and a 10 point self report scale were used to identify depression before and after intervention. The psychiatrist was not told to which group women were allocated. After three months 18 (69%) of the 26 women in the treatment group had fully recovered compared with nine (38%) of the 24 in the control group. The difference between the groups was thus 32% (95% confidence interval 5 to 58). CONCLUSIONS--Counselling by health visitors is valuable in managing non-psychotic postnatal depression.