Here is some good news for new mothers confronting the pangs of postpartum depression or psychiatric disorder following child birth. While it is common for 13 per cent of women to suffer from postpartum depression during the first year of child birth, two new studies undertaken by medical researchers in Canada and the United Kingdom have detected that early detection of the disorder as well as timely intermediation may help new mothers who face the hazards of postpartum depression. The findings of these two research teams published recently in the BMJ Online states that timely recognition of the syndrome and quick intervention have resulted to lesser depressing warning signs in new mothers during the months soon after child birth.
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The study undertaken by the Canadian researchers was headed by Cindy-Lee Dennis, an associate professor at the University of Toronto. Incidentally, an earlier study conducted by Dennis had found that new mothers who received the assistance from their friends, family or colleagues over the telephone were expected to carry on with breastfeed considerably. According to Dennis, she found that soon after child birth women really cherished this kind of support over the telephone and this had led her to speculate what other conditions may benefit from such peer assistance. And having studies numerous cases, Dennis was finally able to link this pattern with postpartum depression in new mothers.
During the course of their study, the Canadian researchers altogether examined 701 women through the first two weeks after child birth. These new mothers were found to be tremendously at risk of confronting postnatal despair. And when the intensity of the hazard confronted by these women was assessed using a measure called the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale, it was found that they scored over nine points - something considered to be unusually high.
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Simultaneously, the researchers began a search to recruit volunteers who would be providing peer support to these new mothers over the telephone. Pamphlets were distributed at different places such as the community centers and daycare centers, while newspaper advertisements were published in seven health regions of Ontario inviting women to act as volunteers in the research. The only condition to be eligible to become a peer volunteer was that the women must have personally endured postpartum disorder and recuperated from the condition. Dennis also worked out a special training guidebook and the women selected as peer volunteers had to undergo four training sessions to learn the intricacies of the job.
According to Dennis, chairperson of a Canadian research organization on postpartum community health, the next process was very simple. While the new mother was made to take the lead in the discussion with the peer volunteer, the latter provided helpful and practical ideas and suggestions. The peer volunteer's role also involved offering responsive support; authenticating the experiences of the new mother as well as telling her about new approaches that would help the woman to feel well again. In addition, the peer volunteer also helped new mother by offering her suggestions on where she could look for help, if and when required.
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Dennis confirmed that they found that the hazards of confronting postpartum depression reduced by almost half in new mother who were provided with such peer support through telephone. The research team further found that the post-natal hopelessness was found to be more than 12 when measured on the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale. While only 14 per cent of the women who received peer support complained of postpartum depression 12 weeks after child birth, 25 per cent of women who did not have any such telephone assistance still suffered from postnatal depression.
Findings of the research team working on the same subject in the United Kingdom too were similar to the Canadian study group's results. In the United Kingdom, Jane Morrell, a health services researcher at the University of Huddersfield in the UK, also guided local community nurses, also known as health visitors, to examine and appraise the moods of the new mothers and recognize indications of depression among them and measure them on the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale up to six to eight weeks after the child birth. These community nurses were also trained and imparted specific skills so that they could provide the 'talk therapy' to the new mothers suffering from postpartum depression. In all, over 4,000 new mothers were assessed during the period of this research and the women who were provided with 'peer support' had sessions with the community nurses for an hour for around eight weeks.
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Later, Jane Morrell said in an interview that notwithstanding the type of psychoanalysis or the interventions provided to the new mothers, the health visitors' skills played a vital role in alleviating the postpartum depressions faced by the women who were provided with the peer support for at least six months after their child birth. The improvement was noticed for as long as 12 months after these women gave birth to children, Morrell said. On the other hand, women who did not receive any support from the health visitors suffered a greater degree of postnatal depression and for longer periods.
According to Jane Morrell, the common people are not too aware of the postpartum depression issue. Hence, she emphasizes on the need to educate the women as well as their partners on this aspect preferably during the pregnancy period. Morrell further states that the new mothers should not be apprehensive about seeking assistance when they are enduring any postnatal disorders. At the same time, she feels that there is a need for more advanced training for the health-care experts to effectively deal with such conditions.
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On the other hand, Cindy-Lee Dennis has suggested that the peer volunteers from the different health regions in Ontario who participated in her research project should sustain these women and utilize their services to carry on with the postnatal peer support activities. In fact, Dennis is now planning to undertake an economic assessment of her study to find out the expenses involved in maintaining the peer volunteers and utilizing their services. She feels that her new work would enable the different health regions in Canada to be familiar with the costs involved in working out such programs and examining new mothers experiencing postpartum depression and helping them to overcome their sufferings.