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Women who take part in group singing recover from moderate to severe postnatal depression quicker, according to a new study.
The research by the Centre for Performance Science randomly placed 134 mothers who had symptoms of postnatal depression into three groups to find out if singing could reduce their symptoms in the first 40 weeks after giving birth.
One group received their usual care, the second group had 10 weeks of group play workshops, and the final group had 10 weeks of group singing workshops, where mums learnt and sung songs with their babies as well as creating new songs together on aspects of motherhood.
Mothers with moderate to severe symptoms of postnatal depression in the singing group reported a faster improvement in their symptoms than mothers in the usual care group. Researchers found there was no significant difference in the speed of recovery between the play group and the usual care group.
Dr Trudi Seneviratne, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Faculty said: “It’s exciting to hear about the growing evidence base for novel psychosocial interventions such as singing to facilitate a more rapid recovery for women with postnatal depression. I look forward to more work in this area in the future, as it will be enjoyed by both mothers and their babies.”
Postnatal depression is estimated to affect one in eight new mothers and a quarter of women have symptoms lasting over a year. Early recovery is crucial to limit the impact on both the baby and mother. The research funded by Arts Council England Research Grants Fund supports previous findings that postnatal depression improves over time but gives additional insight into ways to speed up recovery with simple psychosocial interventions such as group singing.
Dr Daisy Fancourt from University College London, lead author on the study, called the results “really exciting” and said: “Many mothers have concerns about taking depression medication whilst breast-feeding and uptake of psychological therapies with new mothers is relatively low.” She hopes this study may reverse this trend.
Breathe Arts Health Research has already put the new findings into practice, running singing workshops in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust for women with postnatal depression across Lambeth and Southwark. It hopes the programme will reach over 200 new mothers in the next three years and will specifically target women from deprived backgrounds or from typically hard to reach groups.
Dr Rosie Perkins, research fellow at the Centre for Performance Science and Principal Investigator, concluded: “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.”
The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.