A new clinical trial at Virginia Commonwealth University will study the impact of mindfulness activities and social connectedness on people with depression while pregnant. If effective, the low-cost intervention could be duplicated in other communities.

Funded in May by a nearly $2.4 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Nursing Research, this study will offer weekly activities to pregnant individuals in underserved parts of the Richmond area.

The study’s co-principal investigator Patricia Kinser, Ph.D., an endowed professor in the VCU School of Nursing and co-director of perinatal mental health research at the VCU Institute for Women’s Health, said this research is important because although treatments exist for depressive symptoms, many people who experience depression while pregnant remain under- or untreated due to concerns about stigma, side effects and cost of medications or psychotherapy.

While postpartum depression is the focus of many conversations surrounding pregnancy and depression, she said, nearly 20% of women in the United States experience clinically significant depressive symptoms during pregnancy.

“The idea here is to provide an intervention that’s low cost, easily accessible, that engages people and empowers them to manage their symptoms. It doesn’t depend upon a prescription. It doesn’t depend upon a provider being accessible to them. This is something that they can learn and then use it in their life,” Kinser said. “Focusing on adequate depressive symptom management through accessible therapies is an urgent clinical and research priority.”

Co-principal investigator Susan Bodnar-Deren, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences and co-director of perinatal mental health research at the VCU Institute for Women’s Health, said the team is hopeful that their work will enhance social connectedness for participants in the groups and outside the immediate network of the study as well.

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Susan Bodnar-Deren and Patricia Kinser
Categories Faculty and Staff, Research
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