A new study out of the University of Calgary shows that a phone call to someone who has recovered from postpartum depression can go a long way to helping other new mothers deal with the experience.

Postpartum depression is a major health concern for new mothers and can interfere with her ability to care for her newborn.

"Postpartum depression is a major health concern not only for the mother, but for the child as well," said author Nicole Letourneau, professor and Norlien/ACHF Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health in the Faculty of Nursing."Treatments for postpartum depression are particularly important to prevent adverse effects on the mother-child relationship and limit the potential impact on child development."

The study, published on Monday in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, reveals that telephone-based peer support may help reduce postpartum depression in new mothers. 

Postpartum depression can affect new mothers within about four weeks of delivery and the American Psychological Association estimates it happens to between 9 and 16 percent of women who give birth.

Experts say that number climbs to 41 percent in subsequent pregnancies and can last for up to two years following delivery.

The research indicates that a conversation with someone who knows what it feels like can have a lasting effect and may be effective for maternal depression up to two years after delivery.

Talking with another mother about the issue also helps those who are going through it to overcome the stigma associated with the condition.

"Peer volunteers understand what depressed mothers are going through, offer hope and guidance in a non-stigmatizing way," said Letourneau "Nurses stepped in to help when mothers in the program needed to be assessed for health risks, such as suicidality. Nurses also regularly debriefed with the peer volunteers to make sure they were managing the sometimes tricky situation they helped depressed mothers face."

64 mothers were involved in the study and the peer volunteers, who recovered from postpartum depression themselves, were trained by registered nurses.

  • The average age of mothers was 26 years
  • With 77 percent reporting depressive symptoms prior to pregnancy
  • And 57 percent having pregnancy complications. 
  • There were 16 women (35 percent) who were taking medication for depression since the birth

Click HERE to see the study, Quasi-experimental evaluation of a telephone-based peer support intervention for maternal depression.