Tech-Based Support Program Helps Prevent Postnatal Depression

Samara Rosenfeld
SEPTEMBER 03, 2019
baby

The birth of a baby is an emotional milestone in a mother’s life. And while many new moms experience postnatal baby blues after childbirth, it is also possible to develop postnatal depression.

But could technology-based programs help postnatal mothers maintain a positive well-being?

Researchers evaluated the use of a technology-based peer support intervention program for 20 postnatal Asian mothers and 19 peer volunteers. The intervention received a positive endorsement, showing that hospitals could provide additional peer support to at-risk mothers in addition to standard care offered to women during their postnatal period.  

Mothers who used the program had more positive outlooks of their birth experiences, the study authors reported.

Each volunteer was matched with at least three mothers. Participants in the intervention group had support from volunteers for at least one month postpartum. Support involved at least one correspondence a week between the mother and volunteer through any technology-based means.

A female research assistant conducted individual face-to-face interviews when participants were between four and 12 weeks postpartum. Peer volunteers were only interviewed after the conclusion of the intervention. Peer Volunteer Activity Logs were used by the volunteers to record the frequency, duration and key points of the correspondences.

Peers underwent training to learn adequate support provision for at-risk mothers.

Researchers measured two overarching themes — postnatal experience and evaluation of the peer support intervention program — comprised five subthemes: a bouncy ride, a way forward, valuable, flexible and supportive program, building blocks of a good relationship and lesson learned and the road ahead.

Every pair of mother-volunteer corresponded through WhatsApp messages regarding emotional needs and available resources at least once a week. Five pairs attempted to schedule a weekly phone call. Most mothers, though, preferred text messages.

Mothers expressed satisfaction with the support they received from their providers during their hospital stay but were disappointed with the lack of transparency from the healthcare professionals.

The mothers also expressed stress about their physical and breastfeeding needs.

The women in the study were appreciative of the extra support provided that improved their emotional well-being. The volunteers reported feeling glad to impact other lives with their experiences and felt happier following the intervention.

The program was successful in significantly reducing postnatal depression symptoms at the end of three months postpartum, the researchers reported. The researchers observed decreases in postnatal anxiety and loneliness and an increase in perceived social support after the intervention.

“The technology-based (peer support intervention program) has the potential to connect with and give support to vulnerable mothers and enable them to access services in way that complement the work of health professionals,” the authors concluded.

Future research could consider including videoconferencing of the development of a peer volunteer mobile app, the authors wrote. More research and testing must be done to further refine this approach before implementation to a wider community.

The study can be found in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. 

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