The Effect of Telephone-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy on Postnatal Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Fei Wan Ngai, Paul Wai Ching Wong, Kwok Yin Leung, Pui Hing Chau, Ka Fai Chung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Karger AG, Basel. Background: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective interventions for postnatal depression. However, few studies have evaluated the effect of CBT delivered via telephone for newborn mothers. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of telephone-based CBT for postnatal depression at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum. Methods: A multisite randomized controlled trial was conducted in the postnatal units at 3 regional hospitals in Hong Kong. A total of 397 women with an Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) score ≥10 on the second or third day postpartum were randomized to receive telephone-based CBT (n = 197) or standard care (n = 200). Primary outcome was the total EPDS score. A cutoff score of 9/10 on the EPDS was used to define women at risk of postnatal depression. Results: Telephone-based CBT was associated with significantly lower depressive symptoms compared with standard care, when assessed at 6 weeks postpartum in the subgroups of mothers with minor depression (EPDS 10-12; difference = 1.90, 95% CI: 0.72-3.08; p = 0.002) and major depression (EPDS ≥13; difference = 5.00, 95% CI: 3.12-6.88; p < 0.001). The effect was sustained at 6 months postpartum in the subgroup with minor depression (difference = 1.20, 95% CI: 0.09-2.32; p = 0.034) but not significant in the subgroup with major depression (difference = 1.69, 95% CI: -0.10-3.47; p = 0.064). The proportion of women who satisfied our definition of postnatal depression was significantly lower in the intervention group at 6 weeks (difference = 23.3%, 95% CI: 13.7-33.0%; p < 0.001) and 6 months postpartum (difference = 11.4%, 95% CI: 1.9-20.8%; p = 0.019). Conclusions: Telephone-based CBT produced a significantly greater reduction in depressive symptoms than standard care during the postpartum period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-303
Number of pages10
JournalPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Postnatal depression
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Telephone-based intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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