Early Intervention in Pregnant Women With Elevated Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms: Efficacy of a Cognitive-Behavioral Group Program

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Abstract

To examine whether a cognitive-behavioral group program among pregnant women with elevated levels of anxiety or depression may reduce anxious and depressive symptoms and has a positive impact on risk factors for anxiety disorders and depression. A total of 753 participants were recruited. After completion of the clinical standardized interview, 160 participants were randomized to an intervention group or a control condition. Psychometric assessments took place at T1 (preintervention), T2 (antenatal follow-up), and T3 (3 months postpartum). Analyses included women who took part in all 3 assessments (intervention group, N = 21; control group, N = 53). The subjective program evaluation by the participants was highly positive, but with the exception of a short-term effect on the quality of an intimate partnership (F1/67 = 4.056; P < .05], intervention effects on anxiety or depressive symptoms were not found. However, there was an intervention effect 3 months postpartum for participants with high depressive symptoms at T1 (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale score of ≥10) (F1/69 = 5.410; P < .05). The results argue against a general efficacy of a cognitive-behavioral group program for pregnant women with rather low levels of anxiety and depression. For women with higher depressive symptoms during pregnancy, a cognitive-behavioral group program may have a positive impact on the course of depressive symptoms during the postpartum period.

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