Pregnancy during pandemic: Clinical psychologist conducts research study to help postpartum women


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – An assistant professor at the University of West Virginia conducted a research study to teach pregnant women skills in cognitive behavioral therapy to prevent anxiety and OCD during the postpartum period .

Dr Shari Steinman explained that there are postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, OCD, and other types of mental health issues that you can have after birth. Steinman went on to state that postpartum anxiety is more common than postpartum depression, but fewer people are aware of it.

“It’s less often studied and less often mentioned, but it can have very serious impacts,” said Steinman.

Postpartum anxiety is any significant increase in anxiety that occurs after giving birth to a new baby. Steinman described that it could be concerns about the baby’s health or concerns about the baby. It could also be an increase in your own anxiety, like worries about COVID or concerns about break-ins.

Postpartum OCD is linked to postpartum anxiety. It’s when you have intrusive thoughts. Steinman said there is an increase in OCD in the postpartum period.

“Some moms think that they are going to kill their baby or that they are going to hurt him or that something terrible is going to happen to their baby,” said Steinman. “Doctors often misidentify this or fail to diagnose it as psychosis or depression.”

Steiman began his research in April 2020 with 19 women who were in their third trimester. Her research study was a mix between a therapy session and a PowerPoint presentation since it was conducted virtually.

“So the moms had seven sessions, we called them role models, and each one taught them different ways to challenge their thoughts and change their behaviors,” Steinman said.

In the research study, they found that mothers who completed the program had a decrease in risk factors associated with postpartum anxiety and OCD. Women’s dysfunctional beliefs, negative interpretations, prenatal anxiety, all of those things eased during the program.

They even incorporated information for study partners, where they saw an increase in perceived support.

Dr Steinman said they are now working on a similar study with 50 to 100 women. They want to try half of the participants with their program and the other half with a controlled condition where they don’t learn the skills so they can make sure that the changes they see happen only from their program. and not just for everyone over time.

“I think moms right now are really brave, I think it’s such a tough environment to have a kid and be a new mom, so all the moms that are doing it right now, I really am. impressed, ”said Steinman.


Paul N. Strickland