Psychology Professor's MommaConnect App will Support Women Struggling with Postpartum Depression
By Lauren Rose
April 03, 2023
According to a CDC study, over 40% of adults in the U.S. struggle with mental health issues. This number has only been compounded by the effects of the pandemic. Women, especially pregnant women and new mothers, may experience a unique set of depression symptoms. Approximately 20% of women in the U.S. report physical symptoms like despondency, tearfulness, inadequacy, guilt, anxiety and fatigue during and after pregnancy, with rates even greater among high-risk groups. These symptoms often lead to profound adverse effects on maternal-infant interaction and a child’s well-being, development and health.
Associate Professor of Psychology Pamela A. Geller, PhD, and her team have been supporting new mothers with postpartum depression (PPD) since 2016 through their Mother Baby Connections program, currently a specialty service of the Drexel Psychological Services Center. Among the first of only 27 intensive outpatient programs in the U.S., Mother Baby Connections is the only such program in the country that operates within a university training clinic. The effects of PPD may derail the mother-infant relationship long-term because mothers may be less sensitive or responsive to their baby’s needs and cues. The type of support provided by the program is crucial for optimal maternal functioning and for the development of a healthy mother-baby relationship.
In partnership with her Mother Baby Connections co-founders, Dr. Bobbie Posmontier, professor of nursing at of the College of Nursing, Thomas Jefferson University, and Dr. June Horowitz, associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Geller and her team have received Stratton, Acorn and NIH grants to develop MommaConnect, a mobile app that would facilitate PPD treatment virtually. Accessible, convenient and cost effective, the app would provide a platform for clinician-patient engagement and offer women struggling with PPD access to crucial and customized perinatal mental health care from the comfort of their homes.
Benten Technologies, a social impact tech company, will lead the development of MommaConnect. Mothers and clinicians will meet virtually each week, and the app will guide mothers to work on developing physical and emotional connection with their children. Culturally appropriate educational videos on maternal functioning, parenting stress and emotional regulation are just some of the components. Through the app, parents will be encouraged to track their mood regulation, recognize age-appropriate development of their babies, learn how to develop positive social interaction with them and ultimately enjoy their precious time with their newborns.
“The availability of this app will allow our clinicians to help more women than ever before,” Geller said. “Optimizing mental health for mothers struggling with PPD and promoting high quality mother-baby interaction is key for babies to thrive. By simplifying access to evidence-based care, MommaConnect will allow more women to get the specialized treatment they need.”