During the postpartum period, family planning (FP) use can be critical for the health of both the infant and mother—yet globally, many women have an unmet need during this time. Many women also experience depression and anxiety—conditions that are common and can impact a range of health behaviors, including those of critical importance to FP. Programs and institutions have done little work to support women experiencing depression and anxiety as they define their FP intentions, address barriers to FP use, and seek an FP method, if they desire to do so.

Breakthrough ACTION conducted a study to address this gap by exploring the feasibility and acceptability of using simplified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approaches to address symptoms of anxiety and depression, which may inhibit contraceptive use. Working with a mental health expert in Ethiopia and drawing heavily on existing CBT materials, Breakthrough ACTION developed a three-session intervention called Mother’s Time. The intervention is designed to be delivered by community health workers to young postpartum women experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety and an unmet need for FP.

Findings demonstrated that overall, simplified CBT, delivered in a group setting, shows promise for alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression and associated social and behavioral barriers to FP. Based on the findings from this first phase of research, Breakthrough ACTION is revising the Mother’s Time Guide. In 2023, the project will launch a larger-scale study in Ethiopia, which will aim to evaluate the impact of the intervention.