This App May Help Us Understand Postpartum Depression and Save Lives
Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common complication of childbirth and may have devastating consequences for a woman and her family. It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of women experience postpartum depression following childbirth. In order to understand who is at risk for PPD and to track important genetic clues, Apple joined forces with the National Institute of Mental Health and UNC Chapel Hill to create the PPD ACT iOS app to aid research that might help in the development of innovative treatment options.
EverydayFamily.com’s Shiloh Johnson interviewed UNC's Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, to learn more about the app PPD ACT. Dr. Meltzer-Brody is one of the app's creators and lead researcher. She believes the app will help doctors better understand the underlying biology and genetic risks in order to better serve patients.
First of all, what exactly is PPD? Dr. Meltzer-Brody explained that PPD is one of the most common and potentially devastating complications of childbirth, affecting approximately 1-in-8 women around the time of giving birth. It can include low mood, sadness, anxiety, and ruminating thoughts. It interferes with a woman’s ability to function. And in the most serious cases can be associated with suicidal thoughts.
So, is baby blues part of PPD? According to Dr. Meltzer-Brody, baby blues is not seen as PPD. Because of all the hormonal changes in the transition from pregnancy to postpartum, many women will feel moodiness, some sadness, and be more emotional. But with baby blues, those feelings disappear after a few weeks. 75% of women will experience some of the baby blues. However, baby blues never includes impairment in function or thoughts of harm to one’s self.
Dr. Meltzer-Brody explained more about PPD ACT. The PPD ACT app initially launched last year on iOS, using an Apple research kit. On April 27th, this free app became available to Android users, too. Expanding to Android as well as iOS increases the reach of the app, so that more women can have access. So far, 14,000 women have downloaded the app on iOS, which is unprecedented for this type of study.
The purpose of this app is twofold: It is a vessel for research, to learn more about PPD, and it is a resource for women who have PPD so they can reach out for help and support.
All moms who feel they have ever suffered from PPD, currently or in their lifetime, can download the app for free. With PPD ACT, women have the opportunity to:
- Take a 10-question validated, clinically screened survey to evaluate risk for PPD
- Receive responses on whether she is (or was) suffering from mild to severe symptoms of PPD
- Obtain resources for those struggling with PPD
- Participate in study by providing a saliva sample using a “spit kit” (provided through the mail to U.S. participants by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) **only applicable to some women, based on score
- Provide DNA samples so that researchers can study the genes of those impacted by PPD
The overall goal of this study and app is to help identify specific risk factors for PPD that may help in future prevention and treatment. Dr. Meltzer-Brody said, “We want this app to be clinically useful, as well as being useful for research purposes.” This app is a form of empowerment. “Women can share their voice/experience with a disease that is so stigmatized and often goes unrecognized.”
For more information, check out their website pactforthecure.com. And to download the PPD ACT app for free, go to iTunes or Google to download for iOS or Android.