iPhone app helps to power study of postpartum depression risk

March 25, 2016, Brown University
An iPhone app will be a key component in a major new study meant to improve understanding of what contributes to postpartum depression risk. Credit: PPD ACT

About one in eight women experience postpartum depression, and a similar proportion experience depression during pregnancy, but psychiatrists still don't know enough about what contributes to the risk. In a major new study, researchers including Dr. Katherine Sharkey will employ an iPhone app and genetic screening to amass the data needed to advance that understanding.

Sharkey, an assistant professor of medicine and of psychiatry and human behavior in the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a sleep medicine physician at University Medicine, said the idea behind the study consortium, "Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment," is six years in the making.

"At the 2010 Marce Society conference in Pittsburgh, a group of researchers involved in collecting genetic samples in our research participants and patients with met to talk about banding together so we could amass the large numbers needed to understand how genetics contribute to postpartum depression," said Sharkey, who sees patients through the University Medicine Foundation and does research at the Sleep for Science Research Laboratory and Rhode Island Hospital. "We agreed to form the PACT."

Now the study, led by the University of North Carolina, has launched. Clinicians like Sharkey across the country will encourage patients to enroll by using the app, which will gather data about their experiences with pregnancy and delivery and how they are feeling. Women do not need to be in a current depression to participate, she said, because their information will be valuable if they have ever experienced postpartum depression.

Some app users will be asked to volunteer to share for analysis. In all, consortium researchers hope many thousands of women will become involved.

"Once data are collected, I will participate in data analyses, interpretation of findings, writing papers with the results, and hopefully developing and implementing new prevention and treatment strategies for perinatal depression," said Sharkey, who is particularly interested in the role sleep – or a lack of it – may play in postpartum depression.

The research is important, she said, because the perinatal period is a particularly vulnerable time for women. But it also goes beyond that because depression can affect everyone around a woman, as well.

"We know that the children of mothers who suffer from postpartum depression also are negatively affected – they are more likely to suffer physical and emotional problems and to have trouble in school," she said. "And the most recent data examines the huge stress that postpartum depression in a new mom has on new fathers – really the whole family suffers. By answering a few questions in the app, women who have current or past perinatal depression could help us make progress toward treating and preventing this devastating illness."

Explore further: Oxytocin level in pregnancy predicts postpartum depression severity

Related Stories

Oxytocin level in pregnancy predicts postpartum depression severity

March 23, 2016
Higher oxytocin levels in the third trimester of pregnancy predicts the severity of postpartum depression symptoms in women who previously suffered from depression, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Novel iPhone study to investigate genetic risks of postpartum depression

March 22, 2016
Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine and the international Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Causes and Treatment (PACT) Consortium unveiled a free iPhone app today to engage women ...

Women who experience postpartum depression before giving birth may face greater risk

January 15, 2015
When it comes to postpartum depression, one size does not fit all, according to a new study led by University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers.

Postpartum depression: what you need to know

November 9, 2015
The birth of a baby is supposed to be a time of wonder, joy and happiness. But for some new moms, that time can be one of sadness and anxiety. Mayo Clinic certified nurse-midwife Julie Lamppa says 80 percent of new moms experience ...

The importance of depression screenings in pregnant, postpartum women

March 7, 2016
In January, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new recommendations for health providers to provide more screenings for depression in pregnant and postpartum women. This came on the heel of studies indicating that ...

Researchers uncover blood markers to identify women at risk for postpartum depression

July 27, 2015
Postpartum depression is a debilitating disorder that affects nearly 20 percent of new mothers, putting their infants at increased risk for poor behavioral, cognitive and social development.

Recommended for you

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Overcoming bias about music takes work

April 18, 2018
Expectations and biases play a large role in our experiences. This has been demonstrated in studies involving art, wine and even soda. In 2007, Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musician, illustrated the role context ...

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative

April 18, 2018
Mental health diagnosis should be a collaborative and useful process, not a meaningless label - according to new research from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the University of East Anglia.

Does pot really dull a teen's brain?

April 18, 2018
Pot-smoking teens may not be dooming themselves to a destiny of dim-wittedness, a new review suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.