Enhancing reciprocal partner support to prevent perinatal depression and anxiety: a Delphi consensus study

Background
 
Systematic reviews have established that partner support protects against perinatal mood problems.
It is therefore a key target for interventions designed to prevent maternal and paternal depression and anxiety.
Nonetheless, the extant literature is yet to be translated into specific actions that parents can implement. Prevention
efforts aiming to facilitate reciprocal partner support within the couple dyad need to provide specific guidance on how
partners can support one another to reduce their vulnerability to perinatal depression and anxiety.
 
Method
 
Two panels of experts in perinatal mental health (21 consumer advocates and 39 professionals) participated
in a Delphi consensus study to establish how partners can support one another to reduce their risk of developing
depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
 
Results
 
A total of 214 recommendations on how partners can support each other were endorsed by at least 80 % of
both panels as important or essential in reducing the risk of perinatal depression and anxiety. The recommendations
were grouped under the following categories: becoming a parent, supporting each other through pregnancy and
childbirth, communication, conflict, division of labor, practical support, emotional support, emotional closeness, sexual
satisfaction, using alcohol and drugs, encouraging self-care, developing acceptance, and help-seeking.
 
Conclusion
 
This study established consensus between consumers and professionals in order to produce a set of
guidelines on how partners can support each other to prevent depression and anxiety during pregnancy and
following childbirth. It is hoped that these guidelines will inform the development of perinatal depression and anxiety
prevention efforts.
 
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