Mothers and Babies' Intervention Program Developed by PAU Professor is Thriving in Greece

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

An intervention program for the prevention of perinatal depression among pregnant women and new mothers has been implemented in Greece with the permission of PAU distinguished professor Ricardo F. Muñoz. Dr. Muñoz developed the Mothers and Babies/Mamás y Bebés course with his colleagues several years ago. The program manual, available on PAU’s  i4Health website, is the basis for SOPHROSYNA, a non-profit mothers and babies program that has been successfully implemented in Greece by Chrysanthi Georgiadou.
 
Georgiadou launched SOPHROSYNA (the Greek word meaning “of sound mind”) following the stillbirth of her daughter Sophronia, initially to provide women with psychological support for pregnancy and neonatal loss. She has since incorporated services that address issues that could pose emotional difficulties for women throughout the perinatal period such as mood disorders, attachment, bonding, and adjustment to parenthood.  
 
Personal Tragedy Sparks Mothers and Babies Initiative
“I suffered from depression following my pregnancy that lasted five months after our loss. So, I knew firsthand the emotional consequence, and I had a 3-year-old child to take care of, which was difficult at times,” said Georgiadou. “There were no perinatal mental health facilities available as we were living in a remote area in western Greece. As a psychologist, I was motivated to do something to support women like myself and women who experience a difficult time during the perinatal period.”
 
An important element of the service is teaching and enhancing mood-management skills and maternal self-efficacy in mothers-to-be. The intervention includes a six-week course during pregnancy and four booster sessions during the critical first postpartum year. The service is available at no charge.
 
“Many participants have told me that the Mothers and Babies program has changed their lives and relatives of the women who participated have stopped me on the street to tell me how much the program changed their daughter or daughter-in-law’s life,” said Georgiadou.
 
To date, SOPHROSYNA has supported over 110 pregnant women and new mothers, and 25 new fathers through the SOPHROSYNA New Fathers Program/ Workshop, which has a strong focus on infant mental development. SOPHROSYNA also travels throughout the Cyclades promoting infant and maternal mental health through presentations and workshops on the influences of maternal mood on infant mental development, perinatal mood, and anxiety disorders, and pregnancy loss and grief management.
 
SOPHROSYNA has slowly broken the stigma surrounding maternal mental health among Greek women since its launch in 2017. ”I was unsure how the public in remote island communities would be receptive to the words ‘disorder’ and ‘maternal mental health’ as these issues  do not receive publicity despite Greek studies revealing a high prevalence of maternal depression,” Georgiadou said.
One reason for the success of the Mothers and Babies program is its non-threatening approach to maternal mental health. We make an effort to emphasize this so women do not feel intimidated or worry about being labeled.”
 
Recommended by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
The Mothers and Babies Course is included as an evidence-based intervention for preventing perinatal depression in official recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published in the February 12, 2019 issue of JAMA (TheJournal of American Medical Association). The USPSTF “recommends that clinicians provide or refer pregnant and postpartum persons who are at increased risk of perinatal depression to counseling interventions.” The recommendation was also cited in a February 12, 2019 article in The New York Times.