Research could help reduce risk for experiencing postpartum depression

Photo of Carley Pope.

July 31, 2018 – Thunder Bay, ON

Carley Pope aims to one day help women reduce the risk for postpartum depression.

Pope discussed her research on maternal mental health at Lakehead University on Tuesday, July 31. 

Pope is a PhD candidate at Lakehead. She has been doing a studentship for Mental Health Research Canada since 2016 that ends in March 2019. Her research explores the benefits of mindfulness on pregnant women and in combatting postpartum depressive symptoms.  

“My doctoral research focuses on the potential benefits of a community-based mindfulness program for maternal mental health and well-being over the course of pregnancy and the postpartum period,” Pope said. 

“Mindfulness is characterized as paying attention to moment-to-moment present experiences in a purposeful and non-judgemental way,” she said.  Research has found that higher dispositional mindfulness is associated with better physical and mental health outcomes. 

Pope is supervised by Dr. Dwight Mazmanian and has been conducting this research in two phases at Lakehead University. 

Phase 1 evaluates the association between a mother’s dispositional mindfulness and their resiliency. It also considers quality of life and well-being using an online questionnaire format. 

Phase 2 uses a randomized control study to investigate a community-based perinatal mindfulness program. The question: Could mindfulness skills support a mother’s resiliency to stress, and improve quality of life and well-being? 

Data collection for phase 1 has recently been completed and Pope looks forward to sharing the results once they become available. Currently, Pope is recruiting participants for the community-based perinatal program she is investigating. 

Recruitment is planned to end December 2018 at which time Pope will continue to follow the participants in the study until they are at 12 weeks postpartum to determine the potential benefits of the program.

“I would like to thank Mental Health Research Canada for supporting my training through the studentship they awarded me,” Pope said. “I am especially grateful as this funding allows me to pursue an ambitious research project that has potential implications for pregnant women both in Northern Ontario and globally.”

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Vice-President, Research and Innovation, discussed the importance of this research.  

“Thank you to Mental Health Research Canada for supporting Carley’s project which will help improve maternal mental health and well-being,” Dr. Dean said. “This studentship speaks to the high quality of graduate student research at Lakehead University.”

Andrea Swinton, Chief Executive Officer at Mental Health Research Canada, travelled to Thunder Bay for the update.

“Mental Health Research Canada is proud to support researchers like Carley Pope, who moves the dial on maternal mental health,” Swinton said. “Her work brings promise to new mothers facing mental health challenges, their children and the communities around them. We look forward to continuing to advance the work of this emerging researcher, and others, who work towards a Canada with the best mental health for all.”

The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, also attended the update. 

“Our government knows that good policy depends on good research. Improving our understanding of mental health will lead to better outcomes for patients and healthier communities for our country. I look forward to seeing how evidence generated through research like that being conducted by Carley Pope right here at Lakehead University can lead to a better quality of life for every Canadian.”