Assistant Professor

Curriculum vitae

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact

McMaster University
1280 Main St. West,
HSC3V - 43B
Hamilton, Ontario ​L8S 4K1

Mental illness among individuals with severe maternal morbidity

Perinatal mental illness, which includes conditions like depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy, affects up to one in five new parents. This not only leads to significant emotional distress and difficulty in daily functioning but can also strain the relationship between the parent and the baby. Moreover, it poses risks for a child’s long-term well-being,  increasing the chances of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral issues as they grow up.

Traditional methods to prevent mental health issues during pregnancy and after childbirth have not been very effective for preventing perinatal mental illness. However, when we focus on specific high-risk groups, interventions have shown promise. Individuals who go through severe complications during childbirth, called severe maternal morbidity (SMM) may be one such high-risk group for perinatal mental health problems. SMM includes unexpected and serious complications during and after pregnancy, like severe bleeding or organ failure. In Canada, 16 out of every 1,000 individuals giving birth experience SMM, and this number is rising.

Our objective is to understand how often individuals face mental health challenges after experiencing SMM. We will access information from Ontario's health records from 2006 to 2019 and compare those who had SMM during childbirth and those who did not. We will measure how mental health problems may differ between these groups based on type of SMM (e.g., severe bleeding or infection) and type of mental illness (e.g., mood disorder, addiction).

Evidence of a relationship between SMM and mental illness during pregnancy and following delivery may lead to the development of health care services that address the unique mental health needs of people with these severe childbirth complications. These efforts will result in better outcomes for birthing individuals, infants, and families by providing more responsive support these individuals.

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