Post-natal depression: Many mothers suffer in silence

Dr Shefaly Shorey, 35, designed a post-natal psychoeducation programme for her PhD study.
PHOTO: Post-natal depression: Many mothers suffer in silence

SINGAPORE - Some new mothers hated their babies and wanted to harm them. Others wanted to commit suicide.

This is not how a new mother should feel, and Dr Shefaly Shorey was determined to help them through this.

So when she had a chance to do her PhD, she designed a post-natal psychoeducation programme for first-time mothers so they could enjoy this momentous period in their lives.

Dr Shorey, 35, is a student from the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies (ALCNS), a department under the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore (NUS). It offers academic nursing degree programmes ranging from baccalaureate to doctoral levels.

Earlier this month, she graduated from NUS with a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing at their commencement ceremony, after 2½ years - a record at ALCNS. The course usually takes three to five years.


Now a lecturer in Nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic, she was also the only one from ALCNS to receive the NUS President's Graduate Fellowship.

Before starting her PhD work in August 2011, Dr Shorey spent six years as a nurse at the National University Hospital (NUH).

During her stint at the post-natal ward, she met mothers suffering from post-natal depression, with some feeling like crying all the time or hating their babies.

Some even had suicidal thoughts or wanted to harm their babies.

Dr Shorey said: "Many mothers needed help, but suffered in silence. They didn't want to go home, citing reasons like their employed help had not yet arrived, or their mothers-in-law were not free to help yet."

She realised that the clinical need for continued care after delivery was a pressing one.

For her PhD, she focused on first-time mothers because she understood how they felt.

She has an 11-year-old son, Rohin.

She studied and interviewed 122 first-time mothers at NUH for her programme.

It had three steps: A 90-minute home visit, an educational booklet and follow-up phone calls from Dr Shorey weekly for up to six weeks, during which they could ask her extra questions while she checked on their progress.

Dr Shorey's close relationship with her son helped her work well with the first-time mothers, who trusted her easily.

She said: "There were a few mothers who cried after I finished the programme. One even told me she envied me because I was so helpful. She wished she could go out and help as well."

Her programme aimed to reduce or eliminate chances of post-natal depression, increase help-seeking behaviour and confidence in taking care of their child.

Dr Shorey has big plans for her programme. She said: "We (Dr Shorey and her three supervisors) hope to extend to web-based learning, with all the information from my book.

"We are also working with the hospital to publish the (educational) booklet."

The team of four is applying for grants to further the study.

One of her supervisors, Assistant Professor He Hong-Gu from Alice Lee, said: "This post-natal psychoeducation programme has been shown to be effective in improving maternal outcomes, which may also indirectly improve the infants' well-being.

"It is appropriate to Singapore because, based on the mothers' point of view, they enjoyed it."

This article was first published on July 9, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.