Dr Rosie Perkins is Research Fellow in Performance Science at the Royal College of Music and an honorary Research Fellow at Imperial College London. Rosie’s research focuses on arts in health and performers’ career development, and she is the programme leader for the RCM’s ground-breaking MSc in Performance Science.
Rosie’s research has been supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and Arts Council England. From 2015-2017 she was Principal Investigator for Music and Motherhood, a project investigating the impact of creative interventions on postnatal depression, and from 2018 she is leading qualitative research into the health, economic and social impact of the arts as part of the AHRC-funded HEartS project.
Rosie completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge, winning the British Federation of Women Graduates Elen Wynne Vanstone Scholarship for her research into higher music education. From 2008-14 Rosie was a board member of the International Society for Music Education’s Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician; she is an honorary member of the Dutch research group Lifelong Learning in Music, a Fellow of the Institute of Mental Health University of Nottingham, and a Fellow of the UK’s Higher Education Academy.
The Impact of Creative Interventions on Symptoms of Postnatal Depression –
Rosie Perkins and Daisy Fancourt
Post-natal depression (PND) is thought to affect at least 13% of new mothers (Dennis, 2005), with symptoms including persistent low mood with or without anxiety, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, sleep and appetite disturbances, lack of energy and decreased concentration (Groera & Morgan, 2007). While there is evidence that psychosocial and psychological interventions are an effective treatment option for PND, there remain challenges with pharmacological treatment models (Dennis & Hodnett, 2007). Consequently, research into promising psychosocial interventions such as music is critical to developing new paradigms for treating PND and supporting families.
This ambitious programme of research (2015-2017) investigates the effectiveness of creative interventions for mother and baby as a psychosocial tool to reduce the occurrence and effects of PND. Funded by Arts Council England, it combines psychological and biological data in a randomised controlled design to provide a comprehensive insight into how and why creative activities might support postnatal wellbeing. The intervention study is supplemented by a cohort study of over 2,000 women tracking the interactions between mental wellbeing, symptoms of PND and involvement in creative activities in women during pregnancy and the first year of motherhood.
Preliminary analyses from the cohort study indicate that over half of the new mothers in our sample sing daily to their baby. Furthermore, regular singing appears to be associated with lower depression and higher wellbeing, self-esteem and self-reported mother-infant bond. Moreover, cultural engagement (such as visiting museums, cinemas, libraries) during pregnancy appears to be associated with lower depression and higher wellbeing, though the social support offered via these activities seems to account for some of their effects. Building on these encouraging preliminary results our intervention study, which closes in July 2016, will scrutinise whether creative activities such as singing or play can be used to intervene effectively in the care of new mothers, and to examine further the psychosocial and biological mechanisms that could lead to enhanced mental wellbeing. Samples of mothers singing in one of the intervention sessions are included in Charlie Henry’s composition Suspundu, which explores the sonorous landscape of the womb by layering found-sound, music and poetry together.
Research findings will be shared internationally with health professionals, policy makers, researchers, creative artists and arts organisations to inform protocols guiding the design and implementation of postnatal creative interventions. This project is a consortium between the Royal College of Music, Imperial College London, CW+ and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Further information about the project is available at: www.rcm.ac.uk/cps
Dennis, CL (2005). Psychosocial and psychological interventions for prevention of postnatal depression: systematic review. BMJ, 331:15.
Dennis CL & Hodnett ED (2007). Psychosocial and psychological interventions for treating postpartum depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 4: CD006116.
Groera, MW & Morgan, K (2007). Immune, health and endocrine characteristics of depressed postpartum mothers. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 32: 133-139.