Linking moms to combat postpartum depression

Posted on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 under Healthcare

Calgary, AB - Postpartum depression affects up to 10% of new mothers (according to the Canadian Psychological Association 2015). Mothers with postpartum depression not only experience low mood, but also are less able to look after themselves or their baby.  Both mothers and their families suffer.

There is another outcome of postpartum depression that cannot be underscored enough: how postpartum depression affects children’s development. 

“It is not only problematic for the mother, it is problematic for their children who end up with cognitive and language delays, problems with peer relationships, and struggles in school,” explains Nicole Letourneau Professor and Palix/ACHF Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary. “One of the consequences of postpartum depression is that it affects the child, not because of the symptoms per se, but because of how moms interact with their child. Moms are less sensitive and responsive, they don’t have the necessary serve and return interactions with their child. We believe that’s the reason why the child’s development is affected.” 

Dr. Letourneau is a Ph.D. prepared nurse, and a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, and has long studied postpartum depression. She identified problems associated with the depression and looked for a solution.

The solution that Dr. Letourneau developed is a program called MOMS Link, and just as the name suggests it links moms together in a support network aimed at combating postpartum depression. 

“I worked with a colleague, Cindy-Lee Dennis, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Community Health, who had developed a program to prevent depression in moms. Together we adapted it to treat symptoms of depression, not just prevent depression,” explains Dr. Letourneau. “We delivered it to every mom in the province (the program was first developed and deployed in New Brunswick) who had access to a phone and was depressed.” 

Postpartum depression is similar to other types of depression – the sufferer is likely to isolate themselves and not ask for help. Coupled with the already exhausting care of a newborn, it is especially difficult on a new mother. 

“We initially worked with the provincial non-urgent call centre to screen mothers. Anyone who called with a child under the age of two could be screened,” explains Dr. Letourneau. “If they screened high on our measures of postpartum depression, they were eligible for the program. We provided eligible mothers with a peer mentor who had overcome postpartum depression and would speak to the mom for one hour a week for twelve weeks. At the end of the program 89% of the mothers were no longer depressed.” 

The success of this program is in large part thanks the partnership MOMS Link developed with Sykes Assistance Services. They were already the provider of the New Brunswick non-urgent call centre (Tele-care 811), which made the association a natural one. 

“We are extremely excited to be able to support the dissemination of the MOMS Link concept,” says Jim Murphy, vice-president, Healthcare Strategy and Business Development, Sykes Assistance Services. “Since 1997, we have supported millions of women in their efforts to take care of their families. It will be wonderful to offer a program that is designed to help women that struggle with postpartum depression, who in many cases have had to deal with this issue on their own.” 

MOMS Link and Sykes Assistance Services signed an official licensing agreement with Innovate Calgary in 2016. Through this agreement Sykes is now positioned to deliver this program to health regions and provinces across Canada, helping many suffering moms in the process. 

“The partnership between Sykes Assistance Services and MOMS Link was in place at the inception of the program, and we were able to make it official,” explains Ken Porter, vice-president, Intellectual Property Management, Innovate Calgary. “Now the program resides with Sykes and they are looking for partner communities in which to deliver this evidence-based program.” 

When the consequences of postpartum depression can be so grave, it is essential that families suffering the effects receive the help they require. With MOMS Link, women can receive this help from their own home without the added stress of finding help elsewhere. It has proven to be tremendously successful in New Brunswick, and has the potential to help many more families across Canada. 

To learn more about MOMS Link and how to bring it to your community please contact Jim Murphy, vice president Healthcare Strategy & Business Development, Sykes Assistance Services, 1-866-522-6148 or

About Sykes Assistance Service

Sykes Assistance Services is Canada’s leading provider of multichannel contact centre based telehealth services, covering over 18 million Canadians with over 250 professional nurses and care managers available 24 / 7 to meet the needs of our clients. Sykes provides symptom assessment, health information, addictions counselling, lifestyle coaching, remote monitoring, chronic illness support, and a variety of public health information lines on behalf of our government and industry partners. Operating four virtual contact centres across Canada, the company offers a broad range of assistance based services including Healthcare, Emergency Roadside Assistance, Legal Assistance, Home Assistance and Customer Service Assistance.


Jim Murphy
Vice President Healthcare Strategy & Business Development
Phone: 1 - 866 – 522 – 6148


About Innovate Calgary

As a leading technology transfer and commercialization centre, Innovate Calgary works closely with startups, entrepreneurs, researchers and investors from the advanced tech sector to take innovation and ideas to the next stage of growth. Innovate Calgary has been successfully contributing to the growth and acceleration of the advanced technology sector for more than 30 years. Our integrated approach to commercialization focuses on facilitating connections among stakeholders and offering a comprehensive range of programs and services to achieve success.


Meghan Ockey
Advisor, Communications & Marketing 
Phone: (403) 284.6410