VA MomMoodBooster (MMB) Program

The MMB Program, coordinated by the VA Office of Rural Health, provides a free online treatment program to veteran women suffering from postpartum depression. Once enrolled in the MMB program, women participate in six sessions over a six week period. These sessions target: managing mood, increasing pleasant activities, managing negative thoughts, increasing postive thoughts, and planning for the future.

Lead Investigator: Michael W. O'Hara; Research Team: Kristen G. Merkitch, Michelle Miller, Rebecca Grekin, Emily Kroska

The Interplay Between Internalizing Symptoms and Pregnancy in Adolescents and Young Adults: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study

Internalizing symptoms and/or pregnancy are experienced by many adolescents and young adults. The current study examined both female and male adolescents and young adults, with the aim to understand direction of influence — whether internalizing symptoms predict pregnancy and/or whether pregnancy predicts internalizing symptoms. Data were obtained from six time points of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 Cohort (NLSY97), and analyses were conducted using autoregressive (cross-lagged) models. Exploratory growth curve modeling was also utilized to estimate trajectories of depressive symptoms across time. Adolescent and young adult females with higher depressive symptoms were more likely to experience future pregnancy. Females who became pregnant and males whose partner became pregnant were more likely to report increased prospective depressive symptoms. Growth curve variances indicated that depressive symptoms for females changed at a faster rate than for males. Policy implications include the development of gender-specific education and intervention programs targeting at-risk adolescents and young adults in order to prevent increased depressive symptoms and pregnancies.

Lead Investigator: Kristen G. Merkitch

Biobehavioral and Neuroendocrine Effects on Antioxidant Enzyme Activity in Ovarian Carcinoma

This project looked at the relationships between stress hormones, psychosocial factors, and antioxidant enzyme activity in ovarian cancer patients. Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of the gynecologic cancers. When people experience psychological stress, cellular metabolism increases; cells generate more free radicals and antioxidant enzyme activity increases. It is unclear if antioxidant enzyme activity is associated with stress hormone levels or psychological factors, such as depression. We measured manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) in ovarian tumors and found a positive relationship between MnSOD and grade of cancer, norepinephrine, and depressed mood. GPx, on the other hand was associated with lower norepinephrine, and higher levels of positive mood. Further work must be done to determine if these levels of antioxidant enzymes are associated with differing survival or chemotherapy response. 

Lead Investigator: Jen Bayer

The Effect of Yoga on the Neuroendocrine Stress Response and Inflammation: A Systematic Qualitative Review

A systematic review of the literature was conducted looking at the effects of yoga on cortisol release and the inflammatory response. Interestingly, while yoga is touted as a stress reliever, there were no clear effects of yoga on cortisol release, though methodological issues might limit the detection of an effect. Yoga did have an effect of decreasing inflammatory response of isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to inflammatory stimuli. This review highlighted the lack of standard methodology in designing yoga interventions that measure biological outcomes and makes several recommendations for future yoga studies to consider during the design process.

Lead Investigator: Jen Bayer


The Onset of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Prevalence, Onset, and Predictors  

This is a longitudinal study that recruited women from UIHC within the first few days after they delivered to assess the prevalence, onset, and predictors of obsessive compulsive disorder in the postpartum period. Women were assessed at four time points: 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks postpartum with a structured clinical interview conducted after the 4th survey. These studies asked about multiple factors such as: traditional and postpartum-specific presentations of obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms, other anxiety and depressive symptomology, pregnancy risk behaviors, trauma history, social support, and maternal avoidance of the infant. Data collection is ending this fall and preliminary results have been presented nationally and internationally with a full write-up to come this spring. 

Lead Investigator: Michelle Miller; Research Team: Kristen G. Merkitch, Graham Nelson

Anxiety Symptoms in the Early Postpartum Period

This project is using data from The Onset of Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorders: Prevalence, Onset, and Predictors study. There are two objectives to this study: 1) examining the prevalence, trajectory, and predictors of social anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia, and hypomania symptoms, and 2) investigating the predictive quality of depressive and manic symptoms later in the postpartum period. Data collection is complete and analyses are being conducted.

Lead Investigators: Kristen G. Merkitch, Michelle Miller


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