A systematic review of systematic reviews to improve maternal mental health and well-being

Fiona Alderdice, Jennifer McNeill, Fiona Lynn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: to identify non-invasive interventions in the perinatal period that could enable midwives to offer effective support to women within the area of maternal mental health and well-being.

Methods: a total of 9 databases were searched: MEDLINE, PubMed, EBSCO (CINAHL/British Nursing Index), MIDIRS Online Database, Web of Science, The Cochrane library, CRD (NHS EED/DARE/HTA), Joanne Briggs Institute and EconLit. A systematic search strategy was formulated using key MeSH terms and related text words for midwifery, study aim, study design and mental health. Inclusion criteria were articles published from 1999 onwards, English language publications and articles originating from economically developed countries, indicated by membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Data were independently extracted using a data collection form, which recorded data on the number of papers reviewed, time frame of the review, objectives, key findings and recommendations. Summary data tables were set up outlining key data for each study and findings were organised into related groups. The methodological quality of the reviews was assessed based on predefined quality assessment criteria for reviews.

Findings: 32 reviews were identified as examining interventions that could be used or co-ordinated by midwives in relation to some aspect of maternal mental health and well-being from the antenatal to the postnatal period and met the inclusion criteria. The review highlighted that based on current systematic review evidence it would be premature to consider introducing any of the identified interventions into midwifery training or practice. However there were a number of examples of possible interventions worthy of further research including midwifery led models of care in the prevention of postpartum depression, psychological and psychosocial interventions for treating postpartum depression and facilitation/co-ordination of parent-training programmes. No reviews were identified that supported a specific midwifery role in maternal mental health and well-being in pregnancy, and yet, this is the point of most intensive contact.

Key conclusions and implications for practice: This systematic review of systematic reviews provides a valuable overview of the current strengths and gaps in relation to maternal mental health interventions in the perinatal period. While there was little evidence identified to inform the current role of midwives in maternal mental health, the review provides the opportunity to reflect on what is achievable by midwives now and in the future and the need for high quality randomised controlled trials to inform a strategic approach to promoting maternal mental health in midwifery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389–399
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Early online date09 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Maternity and Midwifery
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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