Making mindfulness-based cognitive therapy accessible during pregnancy

Preventing perinatal depression among people historically underserved by the medical community.

New funding from the National Institutes of Health will help test the efficacy and improve the delivery of new technology designed to provide low-cost preventative mental health care for pregnant people historically underserved by the medical community.    

This grant advances the work of Center Mom, Inc., a maternal mental health not-for-profit start-up company co-founded by Ellen Tilden, Ph.D., C.N.M., R.N., FACNM, FAAN, associate professor in the OHSU Schools of Nursing and Medicine. Center Mom, Inc. development and early intervention testing was funded by the University Venture Development Fund, a state tax credit program to incentivize donors to support entrepreneurship in the region. Center M is the preventive maternal mental health intervention developed by this start-up. The Center M intervention involves telehealth delivery of group-based mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) training to prevent perinatal depression.

The study aims to bring Center M’s technology closer to commercial availability. First, it will help test and refine a smartphone app as a digital technique for delivering participants’ home practice materials to strengthen mindfulness CBT skills between group sessions.

Currently, the home practice materials are PDFs delivered by email. Particular effort will be devoted to testing the smartphone app’s appeal and usability among underserved pregnant people, specifically those who are Black, Indigenous, Medicaid-supported, and/or rural-residing. Next, the project will test the efficacy of the Center M intervention in decreasing perinatal depression symptoms. Improving intervention delivery and then confirming the efficacy of the intervention are critical steps on the path to both advancing the science and making Center M available within the target populations.

“Mental health issues are the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S.,” said Tilden, who is also a practicing certified nurse midwife at the OHSU Center for Women’s Health. “These deaths are fully preventable if pregnant people can access effective behavioral health care.”

In the team’s initial work, they demonstrated that Center M participants significantly increased their mindfulness scores which predicted significant decreases in depression symptoms. Funding from this NIH grant provides resources to build on those promising pilot study findings.

“Our North star is adapting effective care for preventing depression so that it is easily accessible during prenatal care and so that it is engaging and appealing for those most at risk,” said Tilden.

The trial will be run at 4 OHSU clinics: The Center for Women’s Health, Family Medicine Richmond clinic, Family Medicine Scappoose clinic, Hillsboro Medical Center and with a community partner- Healthy Birth Initiative.

This research was funded by The National Institutes of Health and the University Venture Development Fund (UVDF).

In the interest of ensuring the integrity of our research and as part of our commitment to public transparency, OHSU actively regulates, tracks and manages relationships that our researchers may hold with entities outside of OHSU. In regards to these research projects, Dr. Tilden has a financial interest in Center Mom, a company that may have a commercial interest in the results of this research and technology. Review details of OHSU’s conflict of interest program to find out more about how we manage these business relationships.

By Christi Richardson-Zboralski

Leave a Reply