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Canadore College to lead research into the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on services for new parents experiencing postpartum mood

Jun 27, 2023 | Cindy Males, Public Relations and Communications Specialist

Pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting are not always the exciting experiences people expect.  For some new parents, the period from conception to one-year postpartum is associated with the increased risk for onset and relapse of mental health conditions for both women and men.  A new study led by Canadore College’s Dr. Anna-Liisa Mottonen and Dr. Christina DeRoche will examine both the experiences of parents in northern communities and the practices and knowledge of providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) can encompass post-partum depression, anxiety, and post-partum psychosis,” said Dr. Christina DeRoche, Director of Canadore’s Research Centre.  “The rates of PMADs post COVID-19 have increased to 1 in 3 women experiencing symptoms, with access to support made more difficult due to the virtual nature of service delivery and the isolation experienced.”

“Barriers to accessing perinatal mental health services are intensified in the North, and those who provide services are often at a loss as to where to refer clients given the nature of high turnover and inability to retain qualified professionals,” said Mottonen.

The project, funded by a Mental Health Research Canada and MITACS studentship, will see clinicians and parents surveyed on a variety of aspects related to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and investigate the experiences of northern parents in particular. The funding supported the hiring of a recent graduate of the Social Service Worker program, Ms. Shannon Coyle, who is supporting the project by disseminating the surveys and collecting data.  She is also supporting the community table in the project by collating the results under the supervision of Dr. Mottonen.

“This project will examine parents' experiences with access to, and service providers’ knowledge and provision of, perinatal mental health services,” said Dr. Anna-Liisa Mottonen, Faculty, School of Access, Language and Preparatory Studies.  “I also expect that it will improve my knowledge of the current state of perinatal mental health and related services in the community. Hopefully, what we learn through the research will assist with identifying and addressing gaps in services available and barriers to service.” 

“Overall, Canada has lagged behind other countries in establishing needed policies and guidelines, even with some provinces having instituted their own guidelines,” said DeRoche.  “For this reason, the focus of our study is to assess the landscape of PMAD services and experiences in North Bay and surrounding communities, where rural and remote healthcare are a daily reality, and recruitment and retention of qualified professionals is a significant issue.  According to the partners, “the project provides potential for further education and training for staff and direct evidence and data to help inform policies and services.”