New moms welcome online help for depression

CASE WESTERN RESERVE (US) — Mothers suffering from postpartum depression after a high-risk pregnancy will go online for help if it’s available anonymously and from professional healthcare providers, new research suggests.

Postpartum depression, a moderate to severe depression that can occur after a woman has given birth, affects about 7 to 15 percent of new mothers. The effects can be felt from soon after delivery to as long as a year later.

A new study, which recruited survey participants from four popular information sites for new mothers, found that many women don’t seek counseling because of the time constraints of caring for a newborn and the stigma attached to depression.


“Mothers cannot always find a sitter and then spend time driving to and from counseling,” says Judith Maloni, lead investigator and professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University. “An online intervention is available when the moms have time.”

Researchers from nursing and psychology focused on 53 mothers who fit the study’s criteria: they were hospitalized for complications from their pregnancies and felt depressed the week before the study. Participants represented all geographic regions of the US and were ethnically diverse. Their average age was 32, and most where college-educated.

Published in the journal Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, the study is the first online effort to seek information from new moms with postpartum depression who sought help from online sources, says Maloni, who has previously studied postpartum depression in women with normal or complicated pregnancies that required bed rest and some hospitalization.

Respondents said they would welcome a professional resource they could access at any time that didn’t require medications.

Although the exact causes of postpartum depression aren’t known, Maloni has studied the impact of bed rest on pregnant women and found that those with complications before and during the birth of their babies are at greater risk of slipping into depression after delivery.

As a next step, the researchers are designing a website and online interventions to address the need.

Source: Case Western Reserve University