We at The Women’s Program are committed to providing the highest quality behavioral health services to women. In addition, we aspire to educate health care providers and the lay community about reproductive mental health issues.
Facts About Women's Mental Health
Mood disorders are twice as prevalent in women compared with men, particularly during the childbearing years. Unfortunately, women are less likely to report and seek help for these problems than they are for general medical problems, though they may be just as disabled by them. Both stigma and lack of knowledge regarding mental health problems are barriers to receiving care. Furthermore, studies have shown that untreated maternal depression has adverse effects not only for women, but for their children and their families as well.
The Women's Program is a comprehensive, multi-site clinical and research program developed in the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry in collaboration with the Division of Child Psychiatry and the Department of OB/GYN. Our mission is to address the mental health needs of women across the life cycle. The clinical program provides expert psychiatric and psychological consultation and treatment for pregnant and postpartum women, as well as for psychiatric disorders and psychological distress related to the menstrual cycle, infertility, pregnancy loss, parenting, and menopause. We work cooperatively with other mental health, primary care, pediatric and obstetric and gynecologic providers in multiple medical and psychiatric settings. Clinical services are complemented by a breadth of research across disciplines, including service delivery, therapeutics, and neurobiological research that aims to answer key questions in gender-specific medicine and maternal and child mental health. The focus of both our clinical care and research is the wellness of our patients and their families for generations to come.
We offer the following related services:
- Diagnostic evaluation
- Preconception consultation and planning
- Medication consultation and management
- Short-term psychotherapy: cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, supportive
- Family education and support
- Access to state-of-the-art research trials
- Referrals to appropriate programs and providers, including for children, partners, and other family members
Women’s Mental Health Fellowship
The Women's Program in Psychiatry at Columbia offers a one-year clinical fellowship in women’s mental health. The goal of this fellowship is to develop expertise in the assessment and treatment of psychiatric disorders related to the female reproductive life cycle. Our program also aims to train specialists who will become leaders in the growing field of perinatal and reproductive psychiatry.
Fellows will gain experience in treating psychiatric illness related to pregnancy, the postpartum, infertility, pregnancy loss, the menstrual cycle, and the perimenopausal period in several settings. The training includes providing evaluation and treatment services at two outpatient clinics, serving as reproductive psychiatric consultants to the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and New York State Psychiatric Institute inpatient units, as well as working on the inpatient consultation-liason service to OB/GYN. In addition to clinical training, fellows will develop scholarly projects and participate in teaching medical students and residents.
If you have questions about the fellowship, please contact Dr. Kristin Leight Wesley at email@example.com.
Clinical services at the Women’s Program are complemented by a breadth of research across disciplines, including service delivery, therapeutics, and neurobiological research that aims to answer key questions in gender-specific medicine and maternal and child mental health. Below we have summarized some recent highlights of our research efforts, directed by Dr. Catherine Monk.
• A research paper in press shows that stress during pregnancy -- based on daily, every 30–minute reports on an electronic diary combined with measurements of a hormone in saliva -- predicts earlier birth and lower birth weight.
• Recent papers have been published covering topics such as: the role of inflammation in perinatal depression; how high stress and poor nutrition affect fetal and child cognitive development; a case report on the coordinated and successful clinical care of a mentally ill pregnant woman
• In a project aiming to determine the roots of risk for mental health problems, 60 newborns underwent brain imaging (multi modal MRI assessment) to identify differences in early brain development related to exposure to pregnant women's depression and differences in a specific gene known to make people more susceptible to the deleterious effects of life stress. Results are forthcoming.
• PREPP (Practical Resources for Postpartum Depression) is a behavioral intervention targeting maternal caregiving with the goal of reducing the incidence of postpartum depression by supporting a mother’s sense of efficacy in parenting and by teaching mothers skills to increase infant nocturnal sleep and reduce infant fuss/cry behavior. Preliminary results from our PREPP study indicate that compared to no treatment, our brief, three–session intervention reduces rates of postpartum depression at 6 weeks and 4 months.
For more information about our research, please see profile for Dr. Catherine Monk.
The Women's Program Faculty and Staff
- Elizabeth Fitelson, MD, Director
- Catherine Monk, PhD, Director for Research
- John Sahs, MD, Associate Director for Community Services and Administration
- Margaret Spinelli, MD, Senior Medical Consultant
- Olivia Joly, MD, Attending Psychiatrist
- Shabnam Shakabaie Smith, MD, Attending Psychiatrist
- Kristin Leight Wesley, MD, Attending Psychiatrist
Nina Burtchen, MD, PhD
Colleen Cullen, PhD
Sylvia Fogel, MD
Gayle Goren, MD
Alison Hermann, MD
Liora Hoffman, PhD
Aerin Hyun, MD, PhD
Olivia Joly, MD
Eileen Kavanagh, MD
Jon Levenson, MD
Brenda Mejia-Smith, PhD
Michelle Merrill, MD
Maia Miller, PhD
Phillip Muskin, MD
Ilana Nossell, MD
Lauren Osborne, MD
Laura Polania, MD
Catherine Roche, PhD
Alexandra Sacks, MD
Mary Sciutto, MD
Laura Sirulnik, MD
Nicole Van Nortwick, PhD
Elizabeth Werner, PhD
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Postpartum Support International
- Postpartum Resource Center of New York
- National Women’s Health Information Center
- Postpartum Depression Foundation
- Medical Education Postpartum Depression from NIH
To schedule an appointment or to make a referral, please call the referral line at 212-305-6001. If you are interested in participating in research studies on mood during pregnancy or antidepressant use in pregnancy, please call 212-851-5175.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
Psychiatry Specialty Clinics
710 West 168th Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10032
ColumbiaDoctors - Midtown
51 West 51st Street
New York, NY 10019