The year began with a pPOD library day in Oxford, where the team studied hard in the beautiful surroundings of the Radcliffe Camera. Professor Catherine Monk from Columbia University, New York joined us for the day, and took us through her ground-breaking work on maternal depression during pregnancy.
January was also the month that Liz Braithwaite (now Dr) had her viva to complete her DPhil from Oxford University (the Oxford equivalent of a PhD).
February saw Dot King given an associate award by the NIHR Clinical Research Network for her work in Mental Health research. A beautiful, but seriously heavy, award.
During this month the team began its links with The Mental Elf blog, with Paul Ramchandani writing the first post. A number of blogs from different members of the team followed through the year and we look forward to writing future posts.
Work on the Healthy Start Happy Start trial continued apace, including further development of the video feedback intervention (VIPP-SD) that is evaluated in the trial. Jane Iles received an Erasmus award to visit Leiden in the Netherlands to study and develop her skills in the intervention, with the originators of the intervention, Professors Bakermans-Kranenburg, Juffer and van IJzendoorn – see Jane’s blog about the visit here.
A new paper from the group was published in the journal Epigenetics. It describes one of the first studies to examine potential effects of maternal depression in pregnancy on the developing infant’s stress system, by looking at how genes may be switched on and off. You can read Elizabeth Braithwaite’s blog, and find a link to the paper here.
April also saw the publication of a new study examining mothers’ cortisol responses to stress during pregnancy, finding an increased cortisol response in women who had depression. This work, led by Susie Murphy was published in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health, and can been read here.
Jill Domoney and Paul Ramchandani presented work on assessing father-infant interactions at the British Psychological Society meeting of the Perinatal Faculty. It was unusual, but encouraging to have a meeting focussed on assessment of parent-child interactions.
June saw the online publication of another paper from the team, in collaboration with Public Health specialist, Dr Vaishnavee Madden. The study is described in a blog written by Vaish and the paper can be found here . It studied the potential transmission of aspects of parenting behaviour through the generations.
The Begin Before Birth conference was held at Imperial College London. This annual conference brings together practitioners, scientists, policy makers and many others in a focus on health in pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. Jane Iles and Paul Ramchandani from the pPOD team spoke about early interventions, along with others from across the UK, including Professors Louise Howard and Vivette Glover and Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance.
Also during this month, Dot King and Christine O’Farrelly presented posters on two trials ACORN and Healthy Start, Happy Start at the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) annual conference, which included exciting talks from speakers Professors Paul Stallard, Stephen Scott and Sam Cartwright Hatton.
July marked the date when the first family was enrolled into the Healthy Start, Happy Start study – a large trial of an early intervention to support parents who have a young child at risk of behavioural problems. This study is funded by the UK National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). You can read more about this landmark study here.
The team were invited to talk about the importance of early parent-infant relationships and attachment at the Science Museum Lates. The theme was childhood and the group had a fantastic time talking to the public about research in this area, more on this event can be found here.
September was a month packed full of conferences with the team attending and presenting at a number of them across the UK. These included the Marcé Society (UKIMS) conference with three members of the team presenting. More information can be found here about the day. Talks were from Ellen Grimas on the effects of coparenting on family outcomes, Paul Ramchandani, on behalf of Liz Braitwaite, on the associations between maternal depression during pregnancy and epigenetic modifications to the glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1) and finally Lauren Capron on the association between maternal mood in pregnancy and the expression of enzymes in placental tissue. Rachael Ryan also attended the Imperial Research Symposium, presenting a poster on the Healthy Start, Happy Start trial.
Christine O’Farrelly attended the 3rd Annual Flux Congress and Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) meeting in Leiden. The focus of the meeting was on advances in developmental social and affective neuroscience, emphasizing how social experiences shape child and adolescent neural systems. Finally, members of the team also attended the Society for Reproductive & Infant Psychology (SRIP) annual conference, with talks from Professors Lynne Murray and Cindy Lee-Dennis.
During October Jane Iles led the training of health visitors and nursery nurses in Oxfordshire to enable them to deliver the Video Feedback early intervention (VIPP-SD) as part of the Healthy Start Happy Start trial. The team are looking forward to Oxford Health NHS Trust joining the study as a key new site.
November was another prize month as Lauren Capron received the prize for the best presentation at the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Lauren presented work from her PhD on antenatal stress and depression and child development.
This month also saw the full publication of a paper led by Lauren published in the Journal of Affective Disorders – the focus was on the association between maternal and paternal mood during pregnancy and child outcomes and you can read it here.
Also during this month, the pPOD team put their baking skills to the test and held a bake sale to raise money for the charity Rethink Mental Illness.
December might have been quieter, but there was time for some of the team to attend the parliamentary relaunch of the 1001 Critical Days campaign. Many therapists, researchers and campaigners along with politicians who have supported the campaign pledged their continued support in the new parliament. Also, Jane Iles presented alongside Florence Bristow on the potential impact of perinatal PTSD on the family as a whole at the East London NHS Foundation Trust Conference on Birth Trauma.
The pPOD team’s year came to a busy end running two large randomised controlled trials and working in collaboration on these and other studies with colleagues in London, the wider UK and the Netherlands, with the aim of preventing mental health problems from the earliest point in life – the aim of the pPOD research group.
Authors: Paul Ramchandani and Charlotte Phillips