SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

February 23, 2015 10:00 ET

Help is Just a Call Away for Mothers with Postpartum Depression

Faculty of Nursing professor's study finds peer-based telephone support for new moms is key

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - February 23, 2015) - A new study, published today in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, reveals that telephone-based peer support may help reduce postpartum depression in new mothers. Findings also indicate that social support from peers may be effective for maternal depression up to two years after delivery and may help overcome the stigma associated with the condition.

"Postpartum depression is a major health concern not only for the mother, but for the child as well," says author Nicole Letourneau, professor and Norlien/ACHF Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health in the Faculty of Nursing, who led a team from Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. "Treatments for postpartum depression are particularly important to prevent adverse effects on the mother-child relationship and limit the potential impact on child development."

Postpartum depression is the period of emotional distress that typically affects a new mother within four weeks of delivery and can interfere with her ability to care for the newborn. The American Psychological Association estimates that 9% to 16% of women who give birth may experience postpartum depression, with that figure climbing to 41% in subsequent pregnancies (Canadian data report roughly the same percentages). Previous studies indicate that postpartum depression -- a major depression of at least two weeks -- may occur in mothers up to two years following delivery, with rates of up to 30% worldwide.

Registered nurses screened the 64 mothers involved in the project and also trained the peer volunteers who themselves had recovered from postpartum depression. The average age of mothers was 26 years, with 77% reporting depressive symptoms prior to pregnancy and 57% having pregnancy complications. There were 16 women (35%) who were taking medication for depression since the birth.

The non-judgemental support mothers receive is key, says Letourneau. "Peer volunteers understand what depressed mothers are going through, offer hope and guidance in a non-stigmatizing way." Letourneau adds that nurses played a vital role, not only for the training of the peer volunteers, but in helping peers feel safe and supported throughout the program. "Nurses stepped in to help when mothers in the program needed to be assessed for health risks, such as suicidality. Nurses also regularly debriefed with the peer volunteers to make sure they were managing the sometimes tricky situation they helped depressed mothers face."

This research was funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and in-kind support from Sykes Telecare. The study, Quasi-experimental evaluation of a telephone-based peer support intervention for maternal depression, is published online today at

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.' 

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    University of Calgary
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