SPOKANE, Wash. — Kathie Records, Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing associate professor, is using a $145,000 federal grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to determine the childbearing health of abused and non-abused women.

The first-of-its-kind research award for the WSU College of Nursing has the potential to uncover previously undetermined predictors of postpartum depression. Records and Michael Rice, research co-investigator and associate professor at the College of Nursing, have been gathering data and conducting research related to abuse and pregnancy since 1997.

Prenatal health, changes in abuse and/or depression and postpartum depression will be explored over a 13-month period for each woman participating in the study. The research uses semi-structured interviews and paper and pencil questionnaires to collect data from women during the third trimester of pregnancy, delivery, and months two, four, six and eight postpartum.

The three-year grant, which was awarded to Records in April, is now in the crucial phase of recruiting 200 pregnant women to participate in the project. The study currently has 70 women involved who have been recruited via posters and brochures at physician offices and through professional referrals. A small stipend is offered to women who participate in the research study.

“To secure this funding, we completed several pilot studies of abuse and labor progression and a prospective pilot study of postpartum depression,” said Records. “This research is significant because prior research contains conflicting results about the course of abuse during childbearing.”

Records and Rice believe the relationship between abuse and postpartum depression is understudied. “If results support our initial hunches, interventions can be designed for use during the prenatal period that could help prevent postpartum depression and improve the childbearing experience for everyone in the family,” said Records.

This project is groundbreaking because no other quantitative or longitudinal studies have explored the relationship between abuse at any time in a woman’s life and the occurrence of postpartum depression.

“Beyond the physical and emotional well-being of the mother and child, the long-term benefits of the research include identifying the probability of prenatal abuse or depression having an effect during the postpartum period, and then introducing professional interventions to improve health outcomes,” said Records.

This project addresses the Healthy People 2010 objectives of improving maternal and infant mental and physical health and is consistent with the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women whose purpose is to develop an Agenda for the Nation on Violence Against Women.

Established in 1968, the Intercollegiate College of Nursing is the nation’s first, oldest and most comprehensive nursing education consortium. The WSU College of Nursing offers baccalaureate, graduate and professional development course work to nursing students enrolled through its four consortium partners—Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, Washington State University and Whitworth College. The college educates more than 600 graduate and undergraduate students each year and is the largest undergraduate nursing college in the state. For more information about the College of Nursing, visit the Web site at nursing.wsu.edu.