Perinatal depression (PD) affects 12-15% of women and contributes to adverse outcomes, e.g. preterm birth, low birth weight, and impaired cognitive development of the child. Screening optimizes the detection of PD, but does not reduce barriers to mental health services (MHS) encountered by women who screen positive. A known shortage of MHS across the nation is a significant barrier, particularly in low resource and rural settings. Telehealth is a promising approach to reducing barriers, but there is little research on the effectiveness of telehealth to reduce perinatal depressive symptoms (PDS). There is high potential for telehealth to deliver effective, lower cost MHS to childbearing women, particularly those in low resource settings. The proposed project is a randomized controlled trial among women with mild to moderate PDS. The project aims to evaluate; 1) the effectiveness of a group mental health videoconference intervention (VCI) to reduce PDS across pregnancy and postpartum, and (2) differences in PDS between diverse groups of childbearing women: rural and urban-dwelling, and Hispanic and predominantly North European Descent (NED) populations. We hypothesize that women participating in the VCI will have significantly lower PDS across pregnancy and postpartum than women in an equivalent attention control (AC) group, and the results will differ between diverse groups. A total of 192 women will be enrolled; 48 in each study group. Participants are randomly assigned to study groups: VCI + standard of care, or AC + standard of care. Sessions are delivered via Utah Telehealth Network (UTN). Women in both groups attend weekly one-hour group sessions for 8 weeks using any electronic device (laptop, tablet, smart phone) from their own home. PDS is measured at 3 time points in pregnancy and 3 time points in postpartum. Our study is the first to use a VCI to engage women in a facilitated group approach to reducing PDS, and to evaluate the impact among diverse groups. The approach is cost effective and reduces barriers to access to MHS, particularly for women living in low-resource, and minority communities, and those without adequate transportation, childcare, or work release time. The VCI can be replicated in any setting (e.g. rural or urban), and can be adapted to the needs of diverse communities. The study advances the field by establishing whether a group telehealth intervention reduces PDS, and whether this differs based on the population. If effective and implemented broadly, far fewer women and families would suffer the negative consequences of depression. The proposed project is in line with NINR's high priority areas, including the use of technology to promote health, and a focus on self-management and symptom science.

Public Health Relevance

Our goal is to evaluate for the first time, the effectiveness of using a telehealth approach to reducing perinatal depressive symptoms in diverse groups of childbearing women; urban and rural-dwelling, and from Hispanic and predominantly North European Descent populations. Pregnant women connect for one hour weekly, for 8 weeks, using their own electronic device, from whatever location they choose (e.g. home), to attend videoconference groups facilitated by a mental health professional. The approach is cost effective and reduces barriers to access to mental health services, particularly for women living in rural, low-resource, and minority communities, and those without adequate transportation, financial resources, childcare, or work release time.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Yoon, Sung Sug
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University of Utah
Schools of Nursing
Salt Lake City
United States
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