VCU researcher studies to see if app can prevent postpartum depression

Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 11:30 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - VCU researchers say that clinically depressive symptoms are projected to be one of the leading causes of illness and disability by 2030 and in a wave of isolation brought on by the pandemic, Dr. Patricia Kinser with VCU’s school of nursing says women dealing with postpartum depressive symptoms may be having a tougher time because they cannot see their physicians in person.

“Postpartum depression goes along with suicidal thoughts, decreased breastfeeding, impaired child development even, and then there’s an economic and societal burden, women might have a harder time getting back to work, they’re more medical costs and comorbidities and impact of families,” said Dr. Kinser. “It’s a clinically significant problem that, as researchers, we have been working on for quite some time, and still can’t quite get our hands around.”

But like many areas impacted by COVID-19, VCU is using technology to fill in the gaps.

VCU researchers are adopting an app called Mamma Mia. It was developed in Norway to be a comprehensive program for women throughout their pregnancy in order to prevent and intervene with depressive symptoms.

“It’s all built on this concept of self-management, which is empowering women to manage their health. And that concept of empowerment is really important,” said Kinser.

The National Institute of Health is funding the nearly $2.3 million, five-year study where VCU will be recruiting women across the nation. The study will be a randomized, controlled trial so women will be randomly assigned either to use just the program itself, just Mamma Mia, or they’ll be randomized into a group called Mamma Mia Plus, where they will use the program - plus get regular contacts from VCU research nurses just as a check-in.

Dr. Kinser wants to study if the app can benefit women, in the same way, seeing a doctor in person can.

“So we’ve worked hard in the past few months ever since we got our funding from the National Institutes of Health to adapt this program so that it is more appropriate for a diverse our audience.”

The program is made up of 44 modules to empower women to manage their health. The goal is to determine whether this is a sustainable option for the prevention of perinatal depressive symptoms.

“With the pandemic, this is another resource that women can have, despite the fact that they might have to be socially distancing,” said Kinser.

At last check VCU had nearly 400 women enrolled in the five-year study with the goal enroll up to 2,000 women. If you would like to participate, click HERE.

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