The Perinatal Mental Health team includes researchers from the fields of psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, nursing, medicine, neuroscience, anthropology and biology. Our research focuses on one of the major life cycle transitions in a woman’s life, that of pregnancy and childbirth. This transition is accompanied not only by dramatic changes in virtually every organ system in the body, but also by changes in social role definitions, self-concept, and relationships with partners, parents, friends, and co-workers.
While our societal expectations are that pregnancy and childbirth are times of joy and well-being, for a significant number of women this life stage is associated with considerable distress. When a woman’s experience of childbearing is discrepant from that which is considered normative, this may engender feelings of shame and guilt, that may serve as deterrents to help-seeking.
Our research program assesses biopsychosocial models of perinatal illness that link adverse life circumstances as well as hormonal and physiological risk factors to maternal mental health problems, which in turn may affect the mother-infant relationship. A better understanding of both normative and pathological processes will have great utility in the development of public health education, preventive intervention, screening, and treatment programs.