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New 5-year study aims to reduce the risk of postpartum depression

postpartum depression
Posted at 11:25 AM, Jan 13, 2023

DENVER, Colo. — About 1 in every 7 women develop postpartum depression, and aside from what many refer to as the baby blues, it can affect the baby more than many realize. Postpartum depression can take on many different forms, which causes it to remain undiagnosed for long periods of time.

Inside a University of Denver building, psychology professor Elysia Davis works with a team to study pregnant people and their babies. Now, they are taking their research further by embarking on a five-year study on the effectiveness of prenatal counseling. They are recruiting 900 pregnant women to receive mental health counseling as part of their obstetric and gynecological care at the hospital.

"When they enroll, they would then be randomized, which is essentially like we'd flip a coin and they would either get the in-person or the online class," Davis said.

Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, one goal of is to test in-person counseling compared to virtual.

"We believe online will be as effective as in person, but we need to show that. That hasn't been demonstrated," Davis said. "One of our goals of this project is to implement prevention in a way that is integrated into their prenatal care, so that kind of addresses those barriers that stop people from getting support that may be very beneficial to them and to their baby."

Those barriers can be anything from finances to inaccessibility to stigma. Group counseling is a form of interpersonal psychotherapy, which they will receive in addition to parenting support and preparation for the birth of the baby. The research team will follow them for one year postpartum.

Davis expressed what she believes the biggest misconceptions about postpartum depression are.

"That it's just something that happens, you know, everybody gets it; it's no big deal," Davis said. "It's an important time to benefit two generations right? If we intervene in pregnancy, or if we provide support during pregnancy, not only are we helping mom, but we sort of get this double benefit by improving moms' mental health that has really direct benefits."

They hope this study can help be a model for other cities.

"We know that we can provide support to people during pregnancy that can benefit their mental health, and I think our goal here is really to show that we can do this on a larger scale and reach a broader number of people," Davis said.