Postpartum Depression Support Program Evaluation...


Postpartum Depression (PPD) occurs in roughly 10-18% of women, with psychological symptoms ranging from mild sadness to severe depression. Depending on severity, PPD can pose significant health and safety risks to both mother and child. The Postpartum Depression Support Program (PPDSP) in Saskatoon assists women in managing and overcoming PPD. To examine PPDSP’s effectiveness and explore avenues for improvement, Kyla Avis and Angela Bowen interviewed past program participants to get a sense of how involvement in PPDSP helped them through their PPD. The results are detailed in Avis and Bowen’s report, Postpartum Depression Support Program Evaluation.

The most frequent symptoms that participants reported were mood swings, anxiety and/or panic, indecision and concentration difficulties, excessive crying or sadness, and fatigue. Most participants stated that they began using antidepressant medication during or after their involvement in PPDSP, and the vast majority of these said that the medication was helpful in alleviating depressive symptoms. Since completing the program, most reported an overall improvement in their health, with the greatest improvement in the areas of anxiety and/or panic, mood swings, and crying or sadness. However, 40% were still reporting some psychological problems, and almost two-thirds of these women were currently not seeking any professional help, while others were seeing their family physician, a psychiatrist, or receiving some form of counseling. Of those who believed that they had fully recovered, most cited their family physician, the support of their partner, and the passage of time as the most important reasons. Although PPDSP ranked behind these factors, 81% of participants rated the program as influential to their recovery.

Support, feeling not alone, and coping strategies were cited most often as PPDSP’s helpful aspects. The least helpful aspects dealt largely with the nature of the group sessions, where some felt that particular individuals dominated the discussion or aired personal problems not related to PPD. Others felt that the group’s diversity was not beneficial (e.g. one unmarried woman did not feel that she could relate to the problems of the married women). There were also concerns about the availability of telephone support, especially after-hours and on weekends. Despite these reservations, almost all the participants said that they would recommend PPDSP to others (or had already done so). In their recommendations, the authors suggested increasing follow-ups of clients’ experiences, offering more tailored group settings (e.g. based on marital status, race, age group), improving afterhours telephone support, and involving mothers’ friends and families in the program to improve knowledge of PPD and offer better support at home.

Bowen & Avis provide a strong and detailed base from which PPDSP and similar programs can improve their efforts to mothers experiencing PPD. Given the participants’ mostly positive assessments, the program already rests on a solid foundation and needs only minor modifications to improve its service

Avis, Kyla and Angela Bowen. (2004). Postpartum Depression Support Program Evaluation. Saskatoon: Community-University Institute for Social Research.