One in eight women who are or have been pregnant will suffer from postpartum depression. That’s a startling statistic for a condition no one talks about. That’s what Samantha Meltzer-Brody was thinking when she and others in the UNC School of Medicine came up with the PPD Act app last year.
“We believe that the PPD Act app is very empowering for women, it allows many mothers for the first time ever to share their experience about a disease that is often so stigmatized and unrecognized,” said Meltzer-Brody.
It’s an app for the iPhone that allows women to sign up for a study, and allows doctors and scientists to use their information to help understand why some women suffer from PPD and others don’t.
But the school is expanding the app by including some new additions. Meltzer-Brody said one of these is a new module that will include more in-depth questions for the women who download the app and participate.
“We want to study the economic burden on families that have a mom that suffers with postpartum depression and understand healthcare utilization and how this really impacts functioning,” she said. “And so these questions are now added to the app.”
The app is also now available for Android smartphones as well as for iPhones. Meltzer-Brody said that by only offering the app in the Apple store, the school could only reach a limited demographic.
“At this point, there’s a lot of work trying to understand what’s going on at the biological level, at the genetic level,” she said. “There is research showing that women who are vulnerable to hormonal fluctuations are the ones who get postpartum depression.”
The app is also available in other countries. It was already available in the United States and Australia, but is now available in Canada, Denmark and parts of the United Kingdom. Meltzer-Brody said the goal is to make PPD Act accessible worldwide.
“We’re certainly beginning to think about translating into Spanish and there are other countries interested,” she said. “However we can increase the reach to increase the number of women who can participate in this research is a major goal. “
Last year, approximately 14,000 women participated in the study. According to a press release from the School of Medicine, the goal is to gather samples from at least 50,000 women from around the world.
Meltzer-Brody said this is the first study of its kind.
“I think that there is a lot of momentum and excitement and we are trying to at UNC lead the way in terms of conducting research that improves women’s lives and allows as many women as possible to have a voice in this,”she said.