Effect of Brief Interpersonal Therapy on Depression during Pregnancy: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Benjamin L. Hankin, Catherine H. Demers, Ella Marie P. Hennessey, Sarah E.D. Perzow, Mary C. Curran, Robert J. Gallop, M. Camille Hoffman, Elysia Poggi Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Prenatal depression is prevalent with negative consequences for both the mother and developing fetus. Brief, effective, and safe interventions to reduce depression during pregnancy are needed. Objective: To evaluate depression improvement (symptoms and diagnosis) among pregnant individuals from diverse backgrounds randomized to brief interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) vs enhanced usual care (EUC). Design, Setting, and Participants: A prospective, evaluator-blinded, randomized clinical trial, the Care Project, was conducted among adult pregnant individuals who reported elevated symptoms during routine obstetric care depression screening in general practice in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) clinics. Participants were recruited between July 2017 and August 2021. Repeated measures follow-up occurred across pregnancy from baseline (mean [SD], 16.7 [4.2] gestational weeks) through term. Pregnant participants were randomized to IPT or EUC and included in intent-to-treat analyses. Interventions: Treatment comprised an engagement session and 8 active sessions of brief IPT (MOMCare) during pregnancy. EUC included engagement and maternity support services. Main Outcomes and Measures: Two depression symptom scales, the 20-item Symptom Checklist and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, were assessed at baseline and repeatedly across pregnancy. Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 ascertained major depressive disorder (MDD) at baseline and the end of gestation. Results: Of 234 participants, 115 were allocated to IPT (mean [SD] age, 29.7 [5.9] years; 57 [49.6%] enrolled in Medicaid; 42 [36.5%] had current MDD; 106 [92.2%] received intervention) and 119 to EUC (mean [SD] age, 30.1 [5.9] years; 62 [52.1%] enrolled in Medicaid; 44 [37%] had MDD). The 20-item Symptom Checklist scores improved from baseline over gestation for IPT but not EUC (d = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.22-0.91; mean [SD] change for IPT vs EUC: 26.7 [1.14] to 13.6 [1.40] vs 27.1 [1.12] to 23.5 [1.34]). IPT participants more rapidly improved on Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale compared with EUC (d = 0.40; 95% CI, 0.06-0.74; mean [SD] change for IPT vs EUC: 11.4 [0.38] to 5.4 [0.57] vs 11.5 [0.37] to 7.6 [0.55]). MDD rate by end of gestation had decreased significantly for IPT participants (7 [6.1%]) vs EUC (31 [26.1%]) (odds ratio, 4.99; 95% CI, 2.08-11.97). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, brief IPT significantly reduced prenatal depression symptoms and MDD compared with EUC among pregnant individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds recruited from primary OB/GYN clinics. As a safe, effective intervention to relieve depression during pregnancy, brief IPT may positively affect mothers' mental health and the developing fetus. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03011801.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-547
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 7 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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