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The Red Tent: Support Groups for Childbearing Women Experiencing Anxiety and Depression

New and expectant mothers experiencing anxiety and depression are often isolated and alone; support groups provide hope for recovery.

Photo of Adrienne Griffen
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In no more than 3 sentences, please tell us who your idea is designed for and how it reimagines the new life experience.

Too often in the United States, new and expectant mothers are isolated and alone, far away from their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins. This social isolation can contribute to anxiety and depression, which affect 1 in 5 childbearing women and are the MOST COMMON complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Our support group model provides a low-cost community-based intervention that offers new mothers validation, normalization, and hope for recovery.

                                                ANXIETY and DEPRESSION


1 in 5 new or expectant mothers will experience anxiety or depression, making these illnesses the MOST COMMON complication of pregnancy and childbirth.

In the United States, most new mothers are far away from their own mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins -- leaving them isolated and alone, which can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and depression.

At Postpartum Support Virginia, we have created a group model that provides much-needed support and connection for new and expectant mothers that is low-cost, community-based, and easily replicated.  We launched our first group in 2005; we've learned man lessons about running groups and have refined our model based on experience.  We now provide 20 groups throughout the state.

Our support group model provides much-needed validation, normalization, and hope for recovery.  Our support groups are

  1. FREE, easily accessible, on-going, and drop-in
  2. peer support groups that provide psycho-social support
  3. located in hospitals


This model works because it minimizes barriers to care, utilizes a team approach, and is hospital-based, offering groups at times and locations accommodating to new mothers and their infants.  

PSVa's support group model was recently featured by the 2020MomProject in its "Models That Made It" category.

At what stage is your idea?

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Postpartum Support Virginia provides 20 FREE peer support groups for new and expectant mothers experiencing anxiety or depression. Our first group was launched in 2005; since then, we’ve learned many lessons about running groups and have refined our model based on experience. Our support groups are FREE, easily accessible, on-going, and drop-in; are peer support groups that provide psycho-social support; and are located in hospitals. This model works because it removes barriers to care.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would love ideas about how to better integrate cultural components to provide support to childbearing women who identify themselves as ethnic minorities. For example, we recognize that some ethnic groups feel marginalized by the healthcare system or cannot access traditional mental health programs. How do we tailor social support groups to meet their needs? Where and when should we provide these groups so they are easily accessible?

Tell us about your work experience:

I started Postpartum Support Virginia after my life-changing experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. My previous work experience includes positions in the United States Navy, the United Nations, the IRS, and the White House.

This idea emerged from...

  • An organization or company

Are you an expecting, new, or experienced mom?

  • yes

Are you a healthcare practitioner?

  • no

Are you a current employee of UCB Pharmaceuticals or Sutter Health?

  • no

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Photo of Michelle Gilliland
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My name is Michelle Gilliland and I experienced severe PPD almost 28 years ago,for which I was hospitalized for 3 weeks.When I emerged back into the "Real world" outside of the hospital,The support group and phone support I received were extremely crucial to my recovery.I then became a "phone support" person and held two support group sessions in my home.I am an RN on a Mother/Newborn infant unit and am always on the lookout for patients in the early stages of PPD.NOBODY understands like another mother who has been through this illness.There has been SO MUCH more awareness of these mood disorders since back when I experienced it,and I feel very passionate about support groups/phone support.I am in awe of Adrienne for her dedication and work!

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