CPS publishes results of postnatal depression study

Monday 8 January 2018


Dr Daisy Fancourt and Dr Rosie Perkins, researchers from the Royal College of Music and Imperial College Centre for Performance Science have discovered that group singing ‘with baby’ could speed up recovery from moderate to severe postnatal depression, which is estimated to affect 1 in 8 women.

134 mothers with symptoms of postnatal depression were randomly placed into three groups for the study, to test whether singing could reduce symptoms in the first 40 weeks after birth. One group received their usual care, another received 10 weeks of group play workshops and the final group received 10 weeks of group singing workshops, involving mothers learning songs with their babies and creating new songs together.

Mothers with moderate to severe symptoms of postnatal depression in the singing group reported a much faster improvement in their symptoms than mothers in the usual care group. Meanwhile, there was no significant difference in speed of recovery between the play group and the usual care group.

The study reiterated previous findings that postnatal depression improves over time – but provides additional insight into ways to speed up recovery with simple psychosocial interventions such as group singing.

Singing is a known benefit for improving the mental health of older people and patients with dementia; however, until now there has not been a controlled study about the effect of singing in improving symptoms of postnatal depression in new mothers.

Dr Rosie Perkins, Research Fellow in the Centre for Performance Science and Principal Investigator for the research, said ‘Postnatal depression is debilitating for mothers and their families, yet our research indicates that for some women something as accessible as singing with their baby could help to speed up recovery at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives.’

Dr Daisy Fancourt from University College London, lead author on the study, said ‘Many mothers have concerns about taking depression medication whilst breast-feeding and uptake of psychological therapies with new mothers is relatively low. So these results are really exciting as they suggest that something as simple as referring mothers to community activities could support their recovery.’

The Music and Motherhood study was published today in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Please visit the BJPsych website for more information. 

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