Current Research


Our interdisciplinary research aligns with the clinical goals of the program: to promote optimal long-term development of the baby and to address the challenges that parents face when having a baby with medical complications.

Our research focuses primarily on the following populations:

  • Women bearing pregnancies of babies with (or at high risk of being born with) medical complications
  • Parents of newborns with medical complications (including babies with a prolonged stay in the NICU)
  • Parents coping with the loss of a baby
  • Babies and young children born with medical complications

For questions about our current research, please email the principal investigator:

 Allison Dempsey, PhD (

If you are interested in participating in our research, please email the research coordinator:

Desiree Starzyk (






Telehealth Approaches to Developmental Assessments in Young Children Born with Medical Complications 
PI: Allison Dempsey, PhD

Assessing the neurodevelopmental outcomes of children ages 1-3 are critical to determine how they are growing.

The “gold star” assessment, the Bayley-IV, can only be administered in-person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become imperative to determine if assessments given via telehealth are as effective as in-person assessments. 

Children aged 1-3 years born prematurely and/or with medical complications.

The two telehealth measures used in this study (the DAYC-2 and DP-4) are not sensitive enough to accurately assess delays in this high-risk population.

Infants assessed using either of these measures may be missed and not qualify for needed services during a critical time in their development.

As the field has had to adjust quickly to find remote administration options due to COVID-19, we encourage clinicians to pause and re-assess current practices given these results.

It may be necessary to consider re-assessment of infants as telehealth-derived scores may not be an accurate estimate of where they were functioning at the time of assessment.

Similarly, when reviewing studies that have used these assessments as primary outcomes, caution may be needed in interpreting the results. 


3-D Model to Explain Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) 
PI: Allison Dempsey, PhD

TTTS is a condition affecting 10-15% of identical twin pregnancies where the two fetuses share a placenta but reside in separate amniotic sacs. This condition is difficult for providers to explain and for parents to understand. An anatomically accurate 3-D model may be an effective education tool in explaining this condition.

Parents and parenting partners who receive a TTTS diagnosis.


Even with anatomically accurate 3-D models, TTTS is still a difficult condition to explain and understand. This study raised important questions that warrant future research on this topic; how are providers assessing the effectiveness of their method of education? How do patients perceive their own understanding of a condition? Is patient satisfaction with their medical decision(s) correlated with their perceived understanding?


C-Section Desensitization (Pilot Study)
PI: Allison Dempsey, PhD

Women with high-risk pregnancies are more likely to experience stress and anxiety in anticipation of a C-Section.

Women with high-risk pregnancies currently scheduled for C-Section delivery.


A brief, single-session behavioral exposure intervention (C-Section walk-through) improves the birth experience and reduces stress and anxiety among women with fetal anomalies. We are currently in the process of expanding this pilot study to include multiple Children’s Hospitals around the country with hopes of securing NIH funding for a larger clinical trial.


Counseling Tool for Families with Fetal Anomalies 
PI: Allison Dempsey, PhD

Families who have an infant born with a high-risk medical condition need special psychosocial support.

Families who have recently received a high-risk medical diagnosis regarding the fetus.


The counseling tool we developed was found to be feasible, acceptable, and effective at promoting conversations about coping and quality of life among families receiving a high-risk fetal diagnosis.




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"By studying the mechanisms of mental health stressors during the perinatal period, we promote strong parent-child interactions and healthy biopsychosocial development for the child." -- Allison Dempsey, PhD




303-724-1646 | Women's Behavioral Health and Wellness Line

Psychiatry (SOM)

CU Anschutz

Anschutz Health Sciences Building

1890 N Revere Ct

Suite 4003

Mail Stop F546

Aurora, CO 80045


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