November 23, 2022

Medical students shine spotlight on pandemic’s effect on maternal mental health

Ala Addin Sid Ahmed and Maheen Irshad are in their fourth and final year of medical school at Wayne State.

Wayne State University School of Medicine Class of 2023 students Ala Addin Sid Ahmed and Maheen Irshad have spent three years researching challenging issues in maternal care and outcomes.

Their most recent effort showed that almost one-quarter of women from their patient sample -- specifically 22.2% of women who gave birth during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic – experienced maternal post-partum depression.

They also found that the risk factors most frequently associated with post-partum depression were previous history of psychiatric diagnosis or illicit substance use, followed by a previous history of preterm birth and obesity.

The work was translated into a poster presented at the Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 89th annual meeting, held Oct. 19-22 in Charleston, S.C. 

Federico Mariona, M.D., and Ala Addin Sid Ahmed at the annual meeting.

Sid Ahmed presented “Sorrows and the Joys of Tomorrow: Analyzing Maternal Events During Delivery and Post Partum during the COVID-19 Pandemic Utilizing the EPDS,” receiving the Most Voted Award in the Obstetrics poster category.

Sid Ahmed and Irshad are mentored by Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Federico Mariona, M.D., M.B.A., FACOG, FACS. Dr. Mariona joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1971, and is an honorary member of the Medical Alumni Association’s Board of Governors.

“It felt amazing to receive the award. It was unexpected, and so sitting there and having my name read aloud, and the name of the paper read as well, was really surprising. What made it even more memorable is that Dr. Mariona was sitting across from me, and I could see how happy he was for me,” Sid Ahmed said.

The research team applied the 10-item Edinburgh Post-Partum Depression Scale on a retrospective secondary analysis of 203 post-partum women who voluntarily completed the EPDS.

The team emphasized that perinatal care providers have a strong opportunity to identify risk factors for PPD during pregnancy, and that further research is essential to create an innovative way to detect risks for maternal mood and anxiety disorders during preconception or the prenatal care period given the potential for maternal morbidity or mortality and long-term effects associated with PPD.

“Post-partum depression is considered to be an underreported condition, which means that patients may often go untreated for it,” Sid Ahmed said. “The ripple effect of post-partum depression is huge, as it will impact the patient along with their significant other and children. With a background in public health from my undergraduate degree, I can also see how post-partum depression should be approached as a public health issue. I hope to continue performing more research in this area, as well as in perinatal psychiatry, as I believe patients in the perinatal period have unique needs that need to be addressed.”

Sid Ahmed led this portion of the work, stemming from his interest in reproductive psychiatry, a developing field that is challenging and has a critical future in patient care, Dr. Mariona said.

“We were delighted to see this young colleague freely interacting with professionals from all over the country. I hope this experience gave him further motivation to continue his interest in scholarly activities as he moves into the challenges of graduation, residency training and beyond,” he added.

Irshad knew Dr. Mariona through her involvement with the School of Medicine’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Interest Group, and approached him to work with her and Sid Ahmed.

His passion for Obstetrics and Gynecology and improving maternal-fetal health drove her to pursue a career in the field, she said.

“He is the exact kind of mentor every medical student wishes they could have, and we were so fortunate to have been a part of his team for the last three years,” Irshad said. “Dr. Mariona is one of the most distinguished individuals I know and yet he is the most humble, kind and down-to-earth person you’d ever meet. It is no secret that he is dedicated to the success of the young doctors he trains, and it has truly been an honor to work under his wing. He has had so much knowledge and experience to impart to us, and I hope to continue learning from him as my career in Obstetrics and Gynecology progresses. I could not say enough good things about him or thank him enough. I hope incoming medical students at the Wayne State University School of Medicine also have the privilege of working with him in their burgeoning medical careers.”

The team plans to turn the abstract into a published manuscript.

“Dr. Mariona has been a phenomenal mentor to have. He is always eager to listen to my thoughts and help me better understand how to approach topics involving women’s health,” Sid Ahmed said. “He employs his significant research expertise to provide a world-class education on the art of research. He was the first person to introduce me to perinatal psychiatry and emphasize its importance. If he finds an interesting article on perinatal psychiatry, he always makes sure to send it my way. I think his greatest quality is that even though he is beyond accomplished and has every accolade beneath the sun, he is still humble. He never makes me feel that his is a station of success that cannot be reached, but rather holds out his hand to help pull me up so that I can eventually reach it too. I hope that in my future I can be like him too: a giant in my field who can uplift others.”

Irshad will present further research on the social determinants of health associated with maternal outcomes at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists annual meeting next May.

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