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Postnatal depression has detrimental effects on the child's cognitive and emotional development.
To assess the benefits of treating postnatal depression for mother–infant interaction and child development.
A systematic search was made of 12 electronic bibliographic databases for randomised controlled trials and controlled clinical trials on treatment of mothers with postnatal depression, where outcomes were assessed in children; findings were assessed.
Only eighttrials met the inclusion criteria. Of those included, interventions varied widely but all involved therapies directed at the mother–infant relationship. One study with intensive and prolonged therapy showed cognitive improvement, whereas two others with briefer interventions improved maternal–infant relationships but did not affect the child's cognitive or behavioural development. All five studies assessing only mother–infant relationships showed improvements.
Cognitive development in children of depressed mothers, along with better mother–infant relationships, might be improved with sustained interventions. Trials assessing treatments for postnatal depression would benefit from looking more closely at benefits for children as well as mothers, using validated objective measures.