Tulane’s Transdisciplinary Consortium for Gulf Resilience on Women’s Health (GROWH) is studying the vulnerability of pregnant women and mothers in response to disaster. Women who experience stress during their pregnancy and who have depression or other mental health problems are at increased risk for pregnancy and birth complications. “Our hypothesis is that multiple social adversities will interact with environmental adversity to worsen health outcomes,” says Dr. Emily Harville, a lead researcher in the study. “In other words, a difficult social environment and a difficult physical environment will exacerbate each other.” For this research, pregnant and non-pregnant women are being interviewed about their experiences following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, hurricanes, and other adversities, as well as general symptoms of depression and anxiety. Blood samples are used to measure environmental pollutants and dietary factors. The grant will run through 2016.
The Maternal Transmission of Stress Study (MATSS) examines the impact of maternal lifetime and current stressors during pregnancy (e.g., intimate partner violence, community violence and disadvantage, experiences of discrimination, etc.) and their impact on birth outcomes and biologic stress in the infants at birth.
The Infant Development Study (IDS) examines infants born to MATSS mothers, with data collection at 4-, 12- and 18-months, to examine the role of maternal-infant attachment on biologic stress, behavior, and cognitive development in children as well as the role of maternal depression and anxiety in attachment and child outcomes.
The Mary Amelia Center has a number of secondary studies that examine mental health among women, including analysis of the CDC’s Pregnancy and Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) to examine the roles of pregnancy intention, community violence, and concentrated disadvantage on post-partum depression as well as examination of lifetime adverse childhood experiences on depression and anxiety in pregnant mothers from the MATSS study. Additionally, MAC biennially conducts a needs assessment that examines the health of women and girls in the Greater New Orleans area, including mental health and social drivers of mental health outcomes.