Somewhere between 9 and 16 percent of women who are pregnant will experience postpartum depression, according to the American Psychological Association. That figure increases to 41 percent with expectant mothers who have already experienced postpartum depression following a previous pregnancy.
Postpartum depression is just one of the many subjects being studied at the Psychiatric Research Institute’s Women’s Mental Health Program, whose clinical research will improve the safety and effectiveness of mental health care for future generations. Arkansas’ only training center for physicians and researchers interested in reproductive mental health, the Women’s Mental Health Program conducts extensive psychological and physical exams in an effort to identify those at risk for numerous medical issues.
Dr. Zachary Stowe, the program’s medical director, sees his research as an extension of the clinical treatment afforded women of childbearing age. Stowe and his staff will follow their patients and their children for many years after their initial assessment, the goal being to detect any changes in each individual’s health and how those changes will affect their eventual outcomes. Identifying potential risks and addressing those risks will ultimately change patients’ behavior, and with any luck, the behavior of the population over time.
Stowe and his staff are currently focusing their work on neuropsychological illnesses associated with pregnancy, such as epilepsy, as well as the effects of interaction between mothers and newborn children. Information from this research will hopefully improve the long-term conditions of families and the relationships of everyone involved in them.