Atif Rahman, who developed a therapy program while working as a Wellcome Trust Career Fellow in Tropical Medicine in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, says depression is a major health problem worldwide, but its impact is greatest in developing countries where 80 percent of the world’s population live.
“Depression is one of the leading causes of mental illness in the world and when the condition affects mothers with newborn babies, it can lead to serious consequences” Rahman says in a statement. “The impacts include low birth-weight, poor growth, frequent diarrhea and the mother failing to ensure the child is properly immunized. These conditions tend to remain untreated in countries like Pakistan where only a fraction of the government’s budget is spent (on health).”
The largest trial of the program, published in the Lancet, involved 903 mothers — 463 of whom were in the therapy group. The mothers in the control group were twice as likely to be depressed as those given the therapy after six and 12 months.
The program trains community health workers, who visit expectant mothers, to use principles of cognitive behavior therapy as treatment In addition, patients attend weekly sessions the last month of pregnancy, followed by three sessions in the first month after birth and nine monthly sessions thereafter.