Investigating postpartum depression in refugee women


Photo by Alan Stocki/UG.

Experiencing severe and prolonged stress during the prenatal period can have a detrimental effect on both the development of the foetus and the woman's general obstetric situation. This, in turn, can result in premature birth, low birth weight of the baby and even, in the most severe cases, a threat to the mother's health and life. Researchers from Poland, Ukraine and Spain are extending research on postpartum depression to a new community - refugee women from Ukraine.

The project called Przystanek MAMA, carried out, among others, by psychologists from the University of Gdańsk, is now available not only to Polish women struggling with postpartum depression but also to refugee women for whom fleeing from it is so stressful that the risk of falling into depression increases.

'The negative effects of exposure to armed conflict seem to be confirmed by numerous studies. In their analyses, a significant link was observed between a mother's experience of war and her child's lower birth weight. Some studies also indicate the existence of links between the mother's exposure to armed conflict and an increased number of stillbirths or premature births,' - says dr Magdalena Chrzan-Dętkoś, substantive coordinator of the Przystanek MAMA project in the northern region, an employee of the Department of Psychology and Developmental Psychopathology of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Gdańsk. - 'For example, research by Radnočić and team shows that maternal mortality in Bosnia and Herzegovina was significantly higher during the war period (Radončić et al., 2008). Also, an increase in the rate of preterm births was observed (Fatušić et al., 2005). Stress, social isolation, different reception in the host country of young mothers and a language barrier in the hospital may increase the risk of depression. Therefore, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and other materials are also available in Ukrainian on our website.'

The study will be a survey, so you can join from anywhere in the world. Just click on the link: Mama – Otro sitio más de Blogs UNED

- 'So far, we have been able to survey about 100 refugee women from Ukraine - not only for postpartum depression but also for other symptoms related to war experiences (trauma, permanent emotional tension, stress, physical and sexual violence, etc.). These experiences give a very complex clinical picture, which unfortunately translates into an increase in perinatal depressive symptoms after childbirth,' - adds dr Magdalena Chrzan-Dętkoś. - 'Part of our work is also to educate midwives who have direct contact with patients in the area of trauma-focused care.'

Researchers from Ukraine and Spain are also participating in the project. In a meeting held at the UG Faculty of Social Sciences, the researchers talked about this study and the steps already taken.

'Our study aims to diagnose the mental state of pregnant Ukrainian women and young mothers. The aim is to understand how war can affect the postnatal state and reduce anxiety levels in the subjects. This is very important as Ukrainian women require medical and psychological support in this difficult situation. The study also aims to understand how different countries can help these people cope with the experience of war,' - says dr Alyona Vavilova from Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv.

Among other things, the results of the research will be able to be used to create the most appropriate forms of support for this group, not only in the form of classical psychological therapy but psycho-educational activities and guidelines for medical personnel.

Information about postnatal depression, facts and myths, a support group for mothers, etc., is available on the Przystanek MAMA website.

Elżbieta Michalak-Witkowska / Press Office UG