Postpartum depression (PPD) is not uncommon. In fact, it is one of the most common and devastating results of childbirth, affecting 1 in 8 women who have given birth.
“Symptoms can be sadness, low mood, lack of enjoyment of things that you used to enjoy,” Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at University of North Carolina (UNC) Center for Women’s Mood Disorders told Mom.me. “It interferes with functioning and unfortunately, in its most severe form, women can have thoughts of ending their lives.”
Last year, as part of a team that includes the National Institute of Mental Health, UNC Chapel Hill and Apple, Dr. Meltzer-Brody helped create the PPD ACT iOS app in an effort to better understand who is at risk for PPD and to track genetic clues.
The app lets any woman who has given birth take a short, clinically screened survey, get feedback on whether they have or had PPD and it provides information on mental health resources for women who are currently experiencing PPD. It also invites qualifying participants to be part of a study using a spit kit to provide DNA samples to help researchers study the genes of those who have experienced postpartum depression.
To date, the app has been downloaded by 14,000 women and 5,000 spit kits have been sent out.
The findings could go a long way in preventing future mothers from suffering with postpartum depression in silence because of the stigma associated with mental illness in general, and the shame that comes from not being ecstatic after giving birth.
Oh, and the reach of this study is about to blow up because the PPD ACT app was recently released for Android users as well. This is a big deal considering that there are a lot of mamas and mamas-to-be out there with Android devices. Now pretty much any woman who has given birth and owns a smartphone can be a potential participant.
The benefits of the app for women who are currently experiencing postpartum depression are obvious, but don’t discount yourself from participating even if it’s been years since you gave birth. Your DNA is your DNA for life, and if you suffered from (or suspect you suffered from) postpartum depression, the app can assess the severity and also give you the opportunity to participate in the large-scale study.
The goal is to help future mamas, while at the same time giving some moms a chance to share their experiences for the first time.
If you're worried about the time commitment it takes to complete the screening, don’t be. Dr. Meltzer-Brody says, “We really wanted to design an app that could be used by a busy mom who was feeding the baby in one hand and trying to do this in 10 minutes or less in the other.”
You can spare 10 minutes to help yourself or someone else, can’t you?