A new phone app is helping researchers learn more about Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression (PPD) affects as many as one in eight moms, yet it’s still among the most under-researched and misunderstood mood disorders. That’s why Apple has teamed up with the UNC Chapel Hill, The National Institute of Mental Health, and Postpartum Progress to create a new phone app that could help make PPD a thing of the past.
The app is called PPD Act, and it’s purpose is to recruit both current and former PPD sufferers for a comprehensive study to look for genetic factors that could lead to better prediction, diagnosis and treatment for maternal mental illness. The way it works is pretty simple: you download the app and answer questions designed to assess your symptoms. If your answers indicate you’re a sufferer, it may also ask if you’d like to submit a DNA sample. If so, you’ll be mailed a kit to donate your saliva. Creators are also working on expanding the app beyond Apple products.
— UNC Research (@UNCResearch) March 23, 2016
The app is a research tool and not meant to replace clinical diagnosis, but researchers are optimistic that information they gather will not only help them better understand PPD, but also make diagnosis faster and easier. As UNC’s Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody tells CNN, “We believe it’s a real game changer for our ability to understand the biologic causes of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis and to use state of art science to develop innovative treatments, and that’s the overall goal.”
For women like me who’ve suffered from PPD and anxiety, innovative treatments and a faster diagnosis sound like a dream come true. PPD affects about 985,000 women every year, but studies show roughly 40 percent of those women never get help. The reasons for that are many — stigma, shame, lack of access to resources. For many women, there’s simply not enough information out there and it can take months to even realize something is going on.
I suffered from PPD for about seven months before I finally got help. For me, symptoms were mostly anxiety-based and I even experienced some OCD. At the time, serious conversations about PPD were just starting to take place, and I didn’t even realize that’s what was going on. I thought PPD was just being sad and depressed, and those are the only symptoms for which I was screened at my doctor’s office as well.
The benefit of this research is more women getting help, more women understanding the wide range of symptoms that can qualify as a maternal mood disorder, and most importantly, fewer women losing precious months of their lives to undiagnosed mental illness. As Katherine Stone, the founder of Postpartum Progress, tells Buzzfeed, “A decade ago, everyone was suffering in silence… With this app, we have an opportunity for collective action as patients who have been there. We never want another mother to suffer.”