KinderBuzz Facebook KinderBuzz Twitter KinderBuzz Canada YouTube


Maternal Depression Online Help

Monday, April 1, 2013 - 10:22am
Nicky Pugh with Kathleen Fellinger

There are many preconceived ideas about being a new mother.  If you are pregnant now or maybe thinking of being a mother someday, then you know that women have an idea in their minds and hearts of what motherhood is supposed to be or can be.  For many women, the expectations that we put on ourselves to be everything and do everything for our new baby and family are so high and sometimes unrealistic that it can be overwhelming.  Becoming a new mom is a huge change in your life that you just cannot anticipate or fully understand until you have gone through the journey.  And for many women, it can be a time of great sadness.  Becoming a new mother is truly one of the hardest forks in the road of life and it's a change that lasts forever.  Many women feel like they cannot or should not admit that they need assistance, and the stigma associated with mental illness and post-partum depression can make it even more difficult to reach out and ask for help.  In this context comes a new program that will make a difference in the lives of many new moms which provides a signal to us all that we are not alone.  This month, KinderBuzz features Maternal Depression Online Help, with Nicky Pugh.


KB:  How did you come up with the idea for your program?

NP:  As a graduate student under the direction of Dr. H. Hadjistavropoulos, I have been involved in offering online therapy for a variety of mental health concerns. Through this work, I saw first hand the effectiveness of online therapy and how users appreciate its convenience and flexibility. I have also really enjoyed working in maternal mental health and recognized many treatment barriers mothers often face such as childcare challenges (who watches baby when mom goes to therapy?), mobility difficulties (living in rural Saskatchewan how I can I drive into the city for support?) and the stigma associated with seeking out treatment (what if people find out that I am struggling?)  I was excited at the prospect of online therapy overcoming these challenges.


KB:  Can you explain Maternal Depression Online? How does online therapy work?

NP:  Maternal Depression Online (MDO) is a structured therapy offered over the internet for mothers struggling with depression. The interactive program includes seven treatment modules with text, video, audio and clip art. The program teaches a variety ofstrategies to reduce depression and anxiety. Offline activities are assigned to help apply the strategies into the mom’s daily life. The program is therapist assisted meaning that each client corresponds with a master’s level therapist on a weekly basis via email or telephone.  The program is specialized for mothers, so the content includes many concerns that moms experience.


KB:  How do you know if you need help when coping with your new baby? Or If you are a new mom, what are some signs of post partum depression?

NP:  Everyone copes differently with a new baby. Signs to look for that might suggest you need additional support include prolonged feelings of sadness or loss of pleasure in things you used to enjoy. Additional symptoms include feelings of guilt or worthlessness, anger, low energy, difficulty concentrating, moving more slowly or feeling fidgety, changes in sleep or appetite (unrelated to baby) and even suicidal thoughts.


KB:  How can moms participate in the online program? Who is eligible?

NP:  We are excited to offer MDO to Saskatchewan women who have a baby under the age of one, who are feeling depressed, discouraged or down. To participate, I encourage clients to contact (either through email over the telephone) to arrange a brief telephone interview.


KB:  Does this program have a fee or cost associated with it?

NP:  As this program is offered as part of a research trial, it is currently offered free of charge! The project is funded partially by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, and the University of Regina.


KB:  How long can moms/women use this program?  When you are enrolled in the program, how much time will you need to dedicate to it?

NP:  Every woman’s experience in the program is different. Some mothers enjoy logging on for a few minutes each day to review the material, while others prefer to log on once a week for a longer period of time. We encourage the moms to work through a module a week, with the goal of completing the program in approximately 7-10 weeks time.


KB:  How long will the program be available for new moms?

NP:  The program has been offered since July 2012 and it will be available until August 2013. We are excited to treat as many women as possible.


KB:  Is the program confidential?

NP:  Yes! Aside from informing the client’s physician, participation in the program is completely confidential. All email correspondences occur within a secure and encrypted messaging system.


KB:  What happens with the data?

NP:  To determine the effectiveness of the program and to improve it for future users, we ask all participants to compete a few online questionnaires. When the project is complete, all identifying information is removed, and we run statistical analyses that will tell us the effectiveness of the program. We are also interested in the women’s perception of the online program and their experiences with corresponding with their therapist.


KB:  Who is the therapist who assists the clients as they work through the program?

NP:  The MDO therapist is primarily myself. I am a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology. I have gained over 700 clinical hours working with clients in different settings around Canada including working with perinatal women. I have also been trained in offering online therapy and have treated over 35 clients over the internet.

KB:  What are your hopes for the program?

NP:  My goal with this project has always been to reach out and help Saskatchewan mothers who are struggling and are feeling alone. I want them to know that they are not alone in their maternal depression and through participating in MDO, they can learn strategies to help overcome their depression.

KB:  Have you had any feedback so far on how effective this has been on helping with postpartum depression?

NP:  To date, the feedback regarding MDO has been very promising and exciting. Women are reporting that they enjoyed completing the program from the convenience of their home, the flexibility of the program to mom and baby’s schedule, the different strategies presented to help reduce symptoms, and corresponding with their online therapist.


For further information about MDO, contact Nicky at (306) 585-5369, or You can also visit Maternal Depression Online


KinderBuzz - Nicky Pugh, Maternal Depression Online

Nicky Pugh is a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Regina. She moved to Regina from Edmonton in 2008 to pursue her graduate education. Nicky’s clinical and research interests are in the area of perinatal mental health and online therapy. She has been an active member of the MotherFirst provincial working group that has developed policy recommendations to address gaps related to maternal mental health, including screening and treatment, in Saskatchewan. Nicky has published and presented her research widely and received research funding through the Canadian Institute of Health Research, Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, and the University of Regina.

Photos Courtesy of MDO