Social Work Faculty Advances Research on Digital Postpartum Support Systems 

Discover how online support groups are transforming postpartum care for new mothers in Dr. Aubrey Jones' latest study from the University of Kentucky.

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Lexington, KY (June 27, 2024) – Depression and anxiety are serious mental health concerns for many new mothers, with postpartum depression (PPD) being the most common complication associated with childbirth. Dr. Aubrey Jones, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, has recently published a study exploring the impact of digital connection among new mothers.  

This research, titled “Creating, Connecting, and Communicating: A look at social support for postpartum women,” offers an in-depth look at the formation, activities, and evaluation of an online support group for mothers within three months postpartum. 

Co-authored by Diana Frankenburger, MSN, a childbirth educator with UK Healthcare, the study is centered around “Fourth Trimester Support Group,” a weekly Zoom meeting designed to provide a communal space for new mothers to discuss their experiences.  

“As a woman becomes a mother, her relationships change and her priorities shift, often leading to a need for new or different relationships in her life,” the authors write. “For first-time mothers, this can be especially important.” 

To recruit participants, UK hospital’s marketing team developed flyers, posted sign-up links on the hospital website, and advertised the group in birth education classes. Each support group session began with participants sharing their birth stories, a ritual that helped to foster a sense of community and belonging, and one that gives important context for how their motherhood journey began, and what support they might need. 

“On occasion, a new attendee may have a traumatic birth story, and the facilitators will check in with the attendee or refer them to other group members with similar stories to offer support” Jones said. “Postpartum mental health is complex. It’s important that anyone facilitating a group like this has professional training if circumstances arise that need extra layers of support or even intervention.”  

Jones’ extensive research portfolio emphasizes health equity for women and families, particularly in rural settings. She recently co-authored “Over the Hills and Through the Hollers: how one program is assisting residents in Appalachia with opioid use recovery” published in the Journal of Appalachian Health alongside colleague Dr. Aaron Brown. 

Jones is also a member of the 4th cohort of the Research Scholars Program (RSP), which focuses on transforming healthcare perspectives based on the University of Kentucky’s health-related transdisciplinary Research Priority Areas (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes & obesity, equity, neuroscience, and substance use). 

“In conclusion, the journey into motherhood is a profound transition marked by joy, uncertainty, and significant changes in identity” Jones writes. “I’m hopeful that this research can provide a framework for advancing postpartum healthcare perspectives. Through reflective evaluation and continuous refinement, online support groups can adapt to meet the evolving needs of participants.” 

For over 85 years, the College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky has been a leader in education. Our mission is clear: Through rigorous research, excellence in instruction, and steadfast service, the CoSW works to improve the human condition. Always, in all ways.

As the state’s flagship university, our mission is actualized through our deeds. Our faculty are renowned academicians dedicated to fostering the development of high-quality practitioners and researchers. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.