McMaster, Niagara Region Health team up on study looking at reducing postpartum depression


Published January 26, 2022 at 2:43 pm

A study between McMaster University in Hamilton and the Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) is looking at potential front-line resources to help new mothers through postpartum depression.

Noting that nurses are the first point of contact for women suffering postpartum, which affects one in five mothers, the study noted that if those mothers were exposed to  “nurse-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy” (CBT), it could greatly reduce the symptoms.

During the course of the study, six NRPH nurses with no prior psychiatric background received the CBT training and observed a nine-week series, before working in pairs to deliver this intervention in the community.

The study discovered that mothers who participated in a nine-week series were five times more likely to experience a clinically meaningful improvement in depression than those receiving traditional care alone. The most common symptoms of PPD include feelings of anxiety, depression or feeling overwhelmed, excessive feelings of guilt, changes in appetite, and loss of interest in things that normally bring pleasure.

“As public health nurses are frequently a first point of contact for many mothers with postpartum depression, and as this treatment is scalable and deliverable online, it has the potential to greatly improve access to effective treatment for mothers with around the world,” said the study’s principal investigator, Dr. Ryan J Van Lieshout, Canada Research Chair in the Perinatal Programming of Mental Disorders.

“The CBT program is life-changing for so many participants, and to be a part of that journey is incredibly rewarding,” said Ruth, a nurse with Niagara Region Public Health for the past 32 years.

“The skills taught through the series provide moms with a toolbox of strategies that they can take away from the program and support not only their mental health and their relationship with their baby, but also skills they can use in other relationships and areas of their life.”

Of course, for the study to work effectively, they had to find mothers of newborns who were willing, said another NRPH nurse.

“Many of the participants throughout the years have shared how they were hesitant or reluctant to join a group program,” said Christina, a nurse who has had the opportunity to lead CBT programming since its start in 2017.

“By the end of the session, many are surprised to realize how therapeutic a group setting was in helping them feel supported, knowing other moms feel the same way they do, and the opportunity to celebrate one another’s bravery, honesty, and achievements.”

As a result of the study’s success, NRPH continues to offer this nine-week intervention for expectant parents and parents with infants up to 18 months of age who are feeling depressed, down, or anxious. The series is currently being offered online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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