Objectives: This study reports the cost-effectiveness of a preventive intervention, consisting of counseling and specific support for the mother–infant relationship, targeted at women at high risk of developing postnatal depression.
Methods: A prospective economic evaluation was conducted alongside a pragmatic randomized controlled trial in which women considered at high risk of developing postnatal depression were allocated randomly to the preventive intervention (n = 74) or to routine primary care (n = 77). The primary outcome measure was the duration of postnatal depression experienced during the first 18 months postpartum. Data on health and social care use by women and their infants up to 18 months postpartum were collected, using a combination of prospective diaries and face-to-face interviews, and then were combined with unit costs (£, year 2000 prices) to obtain a net cost per mother–infant dyad. The nonparametric bootstrap method was used to present cost-effectiveness acceptability curves and net benefit statistics at alternative willingness to pay thresholds held by decision makers for preventing 1 month of postnatal depression.
Results: Women in the preventive intervention group were depressed for an average of 2.21 months (9.57 weeks) during the study period, whereas women in the routine primary care group were depressed for an average of 2.70 months (11.71 weeks). The mean health and social care costs were estimated at £2,396.9 per mother–infant dyad in the preventive intervention group and £2,277.5 per mother–infant dyad in the routine primary care group, providing a mean cost difference of £119.5 (bootstrap 95 percent confidence interval [CI], −535.4, 784.9). At a willingness to pay threshold of £1,000 per month of postnatal depression avoided, the probability that the preventive intervention is cost-effective is .71 and the mean net benefit is £383.4 (bootstrap 95 percent CI, −£863.3–£1,581.5).
Conclusions: The preventive intervention is likely to be cost-effective even at relatively low willingness to pay thresholds for preventing 1 month of postnatal depression during the first 18 months postpartum. Given the negative impact of postnatal depression on later child development, further research is required that investigates the longer-term cost-effectiveness of the preventive intervention in high risk women.