Group antenatal intervention to reduce perinatal stress and depressive symptoms related to intergenerational conflicts: A randomized controlled trial

Sharron S.K. Leung*, T. H. Lam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Intergenerational conflicts are a major source of stress, which might lead to depression in new mothers. The conflict is heightened when grandparents are involved in childcare.

Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of an interpersonal psychotherapy oriented group intervention to reduce stress and depressive symptoms in new mothers and enhance happiness and self-efficacy in managing intergenerational conflict in childcare. This study is one of the intervention projects of FAMILY: A Jockey Club Initiative for a Harmonious Society, funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

Design: Multisite randomized controlled trial with two arms: an intervention group attended an additional 4-week program and a control group who received usual care only.

Setting: Six Maternal and Child Health Centres in Hong Kong.

Participants: From September 2009 to January 2010, 156 pregnant women who would have grandparents involved in childcare were recruited at their 14-32 weeks' gestation.

Methods: Participants were randomized to groups using computer generated random sequences by blinded recruitment staff. Primary outcomes were stress and depressive symptoms immediately after the intervention and 6-8 weeks after delivery. Secondary outcomes were happiness and self-efficacy in managing conflict.

Results: After screening 2870 pregnant women, 156 eligible participants were randomized. Intention-to-treat analysis showed that the intervention group (n=78) had significantly lower perceived stress (p=0.017; Cohen d=0.38) and greater happiness (p=0.004; Cohen d=0.41) than the control group (n=78) immediately after the intervention. However, the effects were not sustained at postnatal follow-up. Subgroup analysis showed that participants with depressive symptoms (EPDS > 12) at baseline reported significantly lower stress, greater happiness (p=0.035 and 0.037, respectively; both Cohen d=0.61), greater self-efficacy in managing conflict (p=0.012; Cohen d=0.76) than the control group after the intervention. Also, after delivery, they had significantly greater self-efficacy in managing conflict (p=0.025; Cohen d=0.61) and more able to cooperate with grandparents in childcare (p=0.046; Cohen d=0.59) than the control group.

Conclusion: The intervention was effective in reducing stress and enhancing happiness among new mothers, particularly those with higher EPDS scores. Postnatal follow-up contacts as booster interventions may be needed to achieve lasting effects of the intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1391-1402
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Nursing(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Antenatal depression
  • Intergenerational relations
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Postnatal depression
  • Preventive health services


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