Postpartum Anxiety and Depression Research | PCOM's Dr. Bonacquisti
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Postpartum Anxiety and Depression 
October Research Highlights at PCOM

October 31, 2022

Alexa Bonacquisti, PhD, assistant professor, clinical psychology, recently co-authored “Motherhood and Me (Mom-Me): The Development of an Acceptance-Based Group for Women with Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Symptoms,” which was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. Dr. Bonacquisti shares additional insight into her research and its impact on postpartum mothers.

Postpartum anxiety and symptoms

Dr. Bonacquisti explains her research into postpartum depression and postpartum anxietyPostpartum depression is recently gaining attention by healthcare providers and advocacy efforts. There are many cultural and societal preconceived notions that the transition to parenthood is an easy and joyful time. Dr. Bonacquisti explains this is not the case for all women and parenthood difficulties are often endured in silence and frequently stigmatized. 

”Often when we consider psychiatric responses after childbirth, we think about depression,” says Bonacquisti. ”Many may be surprised to know the range of other symptoms that may occur in the perinatal period. In my research and clinical work, I've found that anxiety is very common during pregnancy and postpartum but often is overlooked or unrecognized.”

Dr. Bonacquisti's research hopes to recognize the range of experiences women may encounter during their childbearing years and how they affect mental health. Infertility, pregnancy loss, perinatal psychiatric symptoms and adverse infant outcomes bring a range of emotions and anxiety. These stressors may then limit a mother's ability to bond with her baby, reduce quality of life and hinder day-to-day functioning.

Translating research into treatments

As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Bonacquisti hopes to translate research findings into effective interventions and develop treatments for perinatal women. Her recently published paper presents a clinical framework for an evidence-based psychological intervention to treat postpartum women in a group format. Dr. Bonacquisti and her fellow researchers developed a group intervention based on research evidence as well as using their clinical experiences and empirically supported treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Distributing this information to clinicians will improve screening and treatment for postpartum depression which will hopefully improve outcomes, quality of life and functioning among new mothers.

”I hope to increase our knowledge of the psychological aspects of these experiences so we can develop better support systems, refine clinical interventions and improve public policies to support women and families as they navigate their reproductive journeys,” Bonacquisti explains.

Future perinatal research

For future research projects, Dr. Bonacquisti wishes to continue to investigate not only depression but also anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms. This work may better identify and understand the range of emotions women experience in the perinatal period.

”I am very interested in translational research that seeks to develop innovative and accessible psychological interventions for individuals,” Bonacquisti shares. ”As a clinician and researcher, this type of research is very important to me to understand better how to translate research evidence to real-world clinical applications.”

Bonacquisti concludes that mental health is strongly linked to physical health.

“Psychological health and well-being are strongly linked to physical health, and this is especially evident during the postpartum period due to the confluence of physical, psychological, and social factors that emerge during this life transition.“

October 2022 Research Highlights at PCOM

Faculty, staff and students at the College's three locations frequently participate in innovative research studies in a variety of topics including the opioid crisis, COVID-19, medical cannabis, surgery, mental health and much more. The overall goal of PCOM research is to develop and test novel approaches to diagnosing, treating and preventing dysfunction and disease.

View more PCOM research highlights for the month of October:

Brisha Bhikadiya, DO '20, resident, internal medicine, co-authored “Early Colonoscopy in Hospitalized Patients With Acute Lower Gastrointestinal Bleeding: A Nationwide Analysis,” which was published in the journal Gastroenterology Research.

Zaid El-Fanek (DO '23) was first author of “Complete Bilateral Ankle Fusion: A Rare Complication of Ankylosing Spondylitis,” which was published in the journal Cureus.

Valerie Foy (DO '23) was first author of “Invasive Trichosporonosis in a Child Following Chemotherapy Induction,” which was published in SKIN: Journal of Cutaneous Medicine.

Kyla Geary, division of research, and Farzaneh Daghigh, PhD, professor, biochemistry, co-authored “Modulation of Arginase-2 mRNA Levels by ω-3 PUFAs and Aspirin in Asthmatic Human Lung Fibroblasts,” in the Journal of Lipids.

Kevin Innella (DO '24) co-authored “The Evolving Interplay of SBRT and the Immune System, along with Future Directions in the Field,” which was published in the journal Cancers (Basel).

Rushabh Kamdar (DO '24) co-authored “The Lasting Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Surgical Key Indicator Cases for Otolaryngology Residency Education,” which was published in the journal Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology.

Olufela Koleoso (DO '24) co-authored “Rectal Dosimetry Using Rectal Hydrogel Spacer in Patients with Recurrent Prostate Cancer Undergoing Salvage High-Dose-Rate Brachytherapy,” which was published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics.

Adam Lencer (DO '23) co-authored “Outcomes Following Arthroscopic Posteromedial Osteophyte Resection and Risk of Future Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction,” which was published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery.

Gregory Morris (DO '23) co-authored “COVID-19 Encephalopathy: Delayed Onset in Unvaccinated Patients,” which was published in the journal Cureus.

Genoveffa Morway, DO, resident, orthopaedic surgery, was first author of “Clinical and Radiographic Evaluation of Ulnar-Sided Wrist Pain,” which was published in the journal Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine.

Soha Noorani (DO '24) was first author of “Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy as a Complication of Air Travel: A Case Report,” which was published in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology.

Marcine Pickron-Davis, PhD, chief diversity and community relations officer and Jennifer Mitchell, EdD, coordinator, diversity and inclusion, presented a session: “Navigating Microaggressions in the Workplace” at the annual Leadership in Higher Education conference in Baltimore, MD on October 7th.

John Pueringer (DO '23) was first author of “A Case of Invasive Pulmonary Aspergillosis vs. Pulmonary Aspergilloma in Immunocompromised Patient With Preexisting Lung Cavity,” which was published in the journal Cureus.

Shuchi Sehgal (DO '24) was first author of “Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy in Patients with Early Onset Pancreatic Cancer: Clinical Outcomes and Toxicity,” which was published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. Sehgal also co-authored “Multiagent Chemotherapy and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy in Patients with Unresectable Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma: A Prospective Nonrandomized Controlled Trial,” which was published in the journal Practical Radiation Oncology.

Eric Sugarman (DO '23) co-authored “Targeting HSP90 as a Novel Therapy for Cancer: Mechanistic Insights and Translational Relevance,” which was published in the journal Cells.

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