Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout, MD, PhD, FRCP(C)

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Canada Research Chair in the Perinatal Programming of Mental Disorders

Albert Einstein/Irving Zucker Chair in Neuroscience

Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences

Director, MD/PhD Program McMaster University

Dr. Ryan Van Lieshout is a perinatal psychiatrist at McMaster University interested in developing interventions aimed at increasing access to treatment for women with depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period. As the Canada Research Chair in the Perinatal Programming of Mental Disorders and the Albert Einstein/Irving Zucker Chair in Neuroscience, his research also examines the effects of evidence-based treatments for perinatal depression on offspring with a focus on disrupting the intergenerational transmission of mental health problems from mothers to their infants.

Here are the projects Dr. Lieshout is currently working on:

Online 1-Day Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)-Based Workshops for Postpartum Depression

Rationale: Even though PPD is one of the most common complications of childbirth, very few women are able to access evidence-based treatment. To overcome the substantial barriers facing new mothers with depression, we have developed a 1-Day CBT-Based Workshop aimed at treating PPD. These workshops are designed to be easily accessible, provide skills that can be used both in the short and long-term and delivered in large groups to maximize efficiency and network building.

Objectives: The objectives of this randomized controlled trial are to determine if these workshops: (1) can effectively reduce maternal depression, (2) are cost-effective, and (3) can reduce the impact of common comorbidities and complications of PPD.

Eligibility Criteria: Women who have had an infant in the past 12 months and who score ≥10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale are potentially eligible.

Study Details: Participants will be assigned to receive treatment immediately (experimental group) or 12 weeks later (waitlist control group). They provide data at baseline, 12 weeks later (immediately before the waitlist control workshop), and 12 weeks after that. Mothers will rate levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as social support, quality of life, service utilization, mother-infant bonding, and infant temperament at all three timepoints.

Future Implications: 1-Day CBT-Based Workshops for PPD have the potential to revolutionize how PPD is treated in Canada and beyond. With the promise of cost-effectiveness and broad uptake, they could provide public health departments with the tools they need to deliver on their promise of successful approaches to mental disorders.

How to sign-up: If you are interested in learning more or would like to register to participate in the study, send us an email at 1daycbtworkshops@gmail.com or fill out our sign-up form

Online Public Health Nurse Delivered Group Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Postpartum Depression

Rationale: Since public health nurses (PHN) are often a first point of contact and support for women with PPD, it is critically important that they have the skills required to address the mental health needs of these women. We recently trained a group of PHNs (in Niagara Region) to deliver a 9-week group Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program for PPD online.

Objectives: The objectives of this randomized controlled trial is to determine if PHNs can be trained to deliver group CBT for PPD that is superior to usual postnatal care in (1) acutely treating PPD, (2) reducing relapse and recurrence, (3) improving mother-infant attachment and parenting, and (4) optimizing infant emotional functioning.

Eligibility: Women who have had an infant in the past 12 months and who score ≥10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale will be randomized to receive either PHN-delivered CBT for PPD online in addition to care as usual or care as usual from their usual healthcare providers.

Study Details: Participants will provide information at baseline, 9-weeks, and 6 months post-baseline. Mothers will rate levels of depression and anxiety, as well as social support, quality of life, service utilization, mother-infant bonding, and infant temperament at all three timepoints. When in-person is again permitted, they will also attend a study visit where measures of mother and infant neurophysiology (electrocardiogram, heart rate variability, salivary cortisol) will be collected.

Future Implications: Given Public Health Ontario’s commitment to improving maternal perinatal mental health and the presence of public health units and PHNs in both urban and rural areas, this intervention has the potential to be disseminated to Public Health Units across Ontario and to improve the health of women and their families both in the short and long term.

How to sign-up: If you are interested in learning more or would like to register to participate in the study, send us an email at niagaracbt@gmail.com or fill out our sign-up form

Online Peer-Delivered Group Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Postpartum Depression

Rationale: COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in social and economic systems that lead to significant health inequalities for mothers and their children. Not only have women’s exposure to factors that exacerbate PPD (e.g., more stress and work, partner conflict, job loss and food insecurity) increased, but social distancing measures have reduced access to protective factors like social support and medical care. Peer-administered interventions, those delivered by recovered former sufferers, are increasingly recognized as effective alternatives to traditional mental healthcare services and could help overcome many barriers to treatment faced by women during COVID-19. Given the large supply of potential peers, women’s desire to help others recover from PPD, and the potential for peers to deliver psychotherapy as effectively as trained professionals, task-shifting the treatment of PPD to peers in an online group format offers a safe, accessible, and cost-effective way to improve PPD rapidly.

Objectives: To determine whether a 9-week Online Peer- Delivered Group Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for PPD can effectively treat PPD and its common complications (anxiety, social isolation, mother-infant relationship problems, and infant temperament).

Eligibility Criteria: Women who have had an infant in the past 12 months and who score ≥10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale are potentially eligible.

Study Design: A randomized-controlled trial where women are randomly assigned to receive treatment immediately or after a 9-week waitlist period. Data will be collected at two time points: (1) before treatment (at study enrollment for the waitlist group) and (2) after treatment (before treatment for the waitlist group).

Anticipated Outcomes: If this 9-week online group CBT is proven to be effective, it will provide the healthcare system with an innovative approach to addressing PPD need in Canada that matches women’s preferences for treatment, reduces barriers, and increases treatment rates beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to sign-up: If you are interested in learning more or would like to register to participate in the study, send us an email at brantpeercbt@gmail.com or fill out our sign-up form