An app designed to help prevent postnatal depression and anxiety amongst expectant mothers has been relaunched by the University of Waikato following a seed funding from WaikatoLink.
Dr Carrie Barber, from the University’s School of Psychology, first developed the app in 2017 and piloted it with a group of mothers. Now, following the University’s funding, a redesigned and updated version has been launched.
Studies show that one in five women will experience high levels of anxiety and depression during and after pregnancy, and about 13 percent of those will experience it severely enough to be diagnosed and require some form of treatment.
The app, named positivelypregnant, includes features like parenting questionnaires, a note to self function and a gratitude log. It also has tools to facilitate conversations from how couples share chores around the home, as well as values and financial changes.
“This app is not intended by itself as treatment for clinical depression or anxiety; we hope it will help women to manage stress and maintain wellbeing during this important time, and we hope this will prevent more serious problems and also help point people who need more support in the right directions to find it,” says Dr Barber.
Having an app over something like a book, means information can be tailored to the specific needs of the mother, with individualised feedback based on what was entered through the questionnaires.
“A lot of what is in the app are things we know work from positive psychology and each of them provide women feedback or direct them to where they can find help.”
The app also has a function to help women understand their stress. It helps mothers discover what may trigger their stress and what their level of stress is, whether it is typical or particularly high. The app then provides links to information about the particular stressor and offers techniques to lower stress levels.
“We have designed it so there is lots of bite sized useful information in the app that will help mothers with both the social and emotional side of being a parent.”
Traditionally, pregnancy information has focussed on topics like the development of the baby, what foods to eat, or possible complications during pregnancy. Dr Barber says there is much less information available to women about the thoughts and feelings that evolve during a pregnancy, and this is what the app is hoping to solve.