Research: Perinatal mental health
Information and resources
This page examines current and completed research that I have been involved with, focusing on perinatal mental health. The current work is being undertaken with my research team in collaboration with the Dorset perinatal mother and baby unit in Bournemouth, and with other research groups and national charities. Previous projects were completed at the perinatal mental health unit at Calmore, Southampton (the unit now operates from Winchester).
With my research team, I am currently working on a series of projects.
Use of online resources to seek help for perinatal mental health
As information technology continues to grow, people are increasingly making using of online services to seek advice an support. In this study, we are exploring how women access the support services provided on charity websites. What support are looking for? Do they get the support they were anticipating? What more needs to be provided?
Prevalence and experience of paternal depression
Almost all of the current published literature on postnatal depression focuses on women; very little examines fathers, The limited research that is available suggests a number of psychological and environmental risk factors for men. Postnatal depression may be relevant to fathers in terms of how they may need to support their spouse or partner. However, there is some evidence that men can develop poor mental health independently. Our research seeks to address this gap in knowledge.
How long does maternal mental illness last?
The 'perinatal' period traditionally refers to the time from pregnancy through the child's first birthday. Where NHS services are commissioned (typically in England and Wales), they usually only cover that period. However, evidence is emerging that maternal mental illness may extend beyond that first year. One recent Australian study showed that 'postnatal depression' may be poorest when the child is 4 years old. In our research, we are exploring women's experiences in a UK community sample, to assess how long their illness lasted (and what support they got beyond the first year.
Our future plans include work that will focus on maternal OCD and on the safety of using psychotropic medications (such as antidepressants, mood stabilisers, and antipsychotics) during pregnancy and breastfeeding. More information will posted here in due course.
Completed (and published) work
Postnatal sleep - a pilot study
Given the relationship between poor sleep and depression,(see sleep research pages) it makes sense that this may also have an impact for new mothers. Many new mums experience reduced sleep, but how does that influence mood? In this longitudinal study we explored that relationship, in what was a pilot study for a larger piece of work that became a PhD project. Click here to find out more
Is poor sleep a risk factor for postnatal depression?
Following on from that pilot study. my former PhD student (Dr Lauren Kita) explored the extent that poor sleep may be a risk factor for postnatal depression. It may seem obvious that sleep is compromised in pregnancy, and after the baby is born. However, what if that sleep is poorer even accounting for that? What does that mean for the mother's mood? Click here to find out more
Cognition and mother-infant interaction in serious mental illness
It is well known that the attachment bond between mother and infant is crucial to help a child develop socially cognitively and emotionally. So, what happens when that bond is compromised when the mother experiences poor mental health. In this study conducted with University of Southampton) we explored mother-infant interaction in mothers with serious mental illness. Click here to find out more.
Steadman, J., Pawlby, S., Mayers, A.G., Bucks, R.S., Miele-Norton, M., Gregoire, A. & Hogan, A.M. (2007): An Exploratory Study of the Relationship between Mother-Infant Interaction and Maternal Cognitive Function in Mothers with Mental Illness. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 25 (4), 255-269.