Postpartum Depression: You Already Do Everything on Your Phone—Now You Can Even Treat Postpartum Depression

A major issue? Screening for postpartum depression and anxiety typically takes place at the standard four- to six-week postpartum visit, but according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as many as 40% of women never attend one.

What Happens When Help Comes to You

Women dealing with PMADs need real help—something 61% never received, according to a survey of more than 700 women conducted by telemedicine app Maven Clinic.

Valerie did know that she needed to seek help. “This was just the most beautiful thing in my life, which was blowing up in front of my face,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that I could be there as best as possible.” She contacted a therapist she had previously used when living abroad in Sweden, who offered to conduct sessions via videoconferencing—a form of telemedicine.

The familiar relationship made it easier for Valerie to open up and the virtual element made it possible for her to get treatment at all. Valerie was able to do sessions from her bed during the first month while she was still physically recovering, sometimes even while breastfeeding. Once a week, for 55 minutes, over the course of six months, Valerie and her therapist worked through the guilt and trauma she felt after her challenging birth.

“Being able to have this [type of medicine] allows a mother to talk to her health care provider about anything that’s going on without even having to get out of her pajamas, let alone packing up a newborn baby,” says Mariea Snell, assistant director of the Online Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Maryville University and a tele-health clinician. “They’re going to be more likely to receive care because they’re going to be more likely to engage in it.”

Telemedicine is particularly crucial for women in rural areas, where patients tend to seek out care only in emergencies, says Curtis Lowery, M.D., director of the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation in Arkansas, and founder of ANGELS, a Medicaid-funded tele-health program for high-risk pregnancy patients that serves rural populations. “We have connectivity all over the state of Arkansas,” he says, “so that psychiatrists can do online clinics and start medication.” Patients can also use the telemedicine service to connect with lactation consultants who are not readily available across Arkansas.

Having early and convenient access to treatment was life-changing for Valerie. “[My therapist] assured me that this was actually something very common that happened to women who were suffering from postpartum depression,” she says. “Just knowing that made me feel 10 times stronger and more secure.”

Is Telemedicine Making a Real Difference for Moms?

Research on telemedicine for new moms is still fairly new, but so far the evidence suggests the tech is a game changer. Several studies that examine the effects of using telemedicine to treat perinatal depression report an “improvement in maternal mood following intervention.” As far as the American Psychiatric Association is concerned, “tele-psychiatry is equivalent to in-person care in diagnostic accuracy, treatment effectiveness, quality of care, and patient satisfaction.”

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