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Source: University of Waikato

An app designed to help prevent postnatal depression and anxiety among expectant mothers has been relaunched by the University of Waikato to help women find the support and strategies they need for positive mental health.

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, with seed funding from the University’s commercial arm, WaikatoLink, a redesigned and updated version has been launched.

Dr Barber says the app has been driven by a need to provide better information to expectant mothers on the social and emotional changes that come with pregnancy, because traditionally information has focused on topics like their developing baby, what foods to eat or possible complications during pregnancy.

Figures show one in five women will experience high levels of anxiety and depression and about 13 percent of those will experience it severely enough to be diagnosed and require some form of treatment.

“Pregnancy is a time of continuous change – not just physical, but social, emotional, and psychological. There is much less information available to women about the thoughts and feelings that evolve during pregnancy,” says Dr Barber.

“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,” she says.

The app provides questionnaires for women to help them understand their thinking and decision making styles and their strengths and values connected to parenting. It offers a ‘notes to self’ function and a gratitude log. Dr Barber says there are also tools to facilitate conversations from how couples share chores around the home, to values and financial changes.

“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,” says Dr Barber.

“One of the advantages of an app over something like a book is that an app can be tailored to the particular needs of the mother – it can provide individualised feedback and information based on what the user enters in the questionnaires,” says Dr Barber.

For example, the app contains a function to help women understand their stress. It helps them understand what triggers their stress and what their level of stress is, whether it’s typical or particularly high. It then provides links to information about the particular stressor and offers techniques to lower stress levels like relaxation exercises or body scanning exercises.

In the conversations section guidance around financial conversations provides links to the sorted.co.nz website where women can find more information on managing finances.

“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.”

The app is available for download on Google Play or the App Store.

MIL OSI