A Theoretical Framework for Treating Perinatal Depression Using Couple-Based Interventions

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Abstract

Between 10% and 20% of women will experience depression in the perinatal period, which begins during pregnancy and extends into the first year after delivery. Perinatal depression (PD) is associated with significant emotional and social impairments that impact women, their children, and their partners. Although the majority of women with PD do not seek treatment, a considerable proportion of those who engage in treatment do not achieve remission. The couples and depression literature suggests that interpersonal processes are central in the development and maintenance of depressive disorders and thus, as researchers seek safe and effective treatments for perinatal populations, there may be therapeutic benefit in examining the role that partners play in women’s recovery. The primary goal of this practice review is to highlight the utility of including partners in treatment for maternal PD and propose a model for practitioners to guide their work with couples within this domain. Specifically, this model involves three key components of treatment: psychoeducation, communication training, and behavioral activation. Each component addresses distinct risk factors for women and couples in the perinatal period in hopes of offering guidance to practitioners for how to address PD symptomology through a dyadic lens.

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