With the rise of social media and mommy bloggers, many new moms experience feelings of failure thinking that everyone else in the world is doing great and they are the only ones who are struggling. In fact, up to 20 per cent of Canadian women will suffer from a maternal mental illness with the majority of these women either hiding or downplaying their symptoms.
Dr. Simone Vigod, chief of psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital and scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, is a leading expert in perinatal mood disorders and has conducted some of the largest studies worldwide on maternal mental illness around the time of pregnancy. Mental illness at this life stage poses unique risks to mothers and their children at a critical juncture in both of their lives. Dr. Vigod’s research is helping raise awareness about gaps in access to specialized perinatal mental healthcare, as well as identifying vulnerable populations where these gaps are most prominent.
Despite the progress that has been made to understand perinatal mood disorders, there is still much work to be done to improve awareness, diagnosis and treatment for mothers. Dr. Vigod’s vision is to ensure every Canadian woman with mental illness is able to receive timely, effective care around the time of pregnancy to improve outcomes for both women and their families.
Working with a multidisciplinary network of research, content experts, front-line workers and women with lived experience, Dr. Vigod is leveraging digital technologies to achieve this goal by optimizing maternal mental healthcare delivery. One of these interventions, Mother Matters, a therapist-facilitated online postpartum mental health support group has already been implemented across Ontario.
Dr. Vigod’s research has also provided valuable insight into balancing the importance of maternal mental health and the risk of medication to the fetus. She’s also developed an online patient decision aid to help women make choices about antidepressant use in pregnancy that is now being evaluated in the United Kingdom. By advancing knowledge and improving access to care during the time around pregnancy, Dr. Vigod hopes to change our healthcare system to better address the needs of women during this crucial time.