Postpartum depression affects one out of every 10 women in the United States between the ages of 18-44, and those are just the women who come forward. Many women continue to suffer in silence, tired and sad and feeling hopeless, unaware as to why they're feeling so low. There has never been a clear, early indicator of who might eventually suffer from postpartum depression — until now. A new international study, there may be a way to predict postpartum depression, and if researchers are correct in their estimations, it could be a huge step in the right direction for mothers everywhere.
The study, called the Postpartum Depression: Action Towards Cause and Treatment Consortium, or PPD ACT, consists of an international group of academic clinicians, researchers, and scientists "committed to understanding the interaction of genes and environment to predict which women are at risk of postpartum depression," according to their website. Researchers for PPD ACT have created an app using smartphones to collect data from women who have struggled with PPD in Australia, Canada, and the United States. The data collected includes DNA samples from "spit kits" to help understand the potential interaction between genes and environment, which could better identify women who are more likely to be at risk for PPD or PPP (postpartum psychosis).
Dr. Simone Vigod, a psychiatrist at the Women's College Hospital in Toronto, Canada, told HuffPost Canada that the information collected by the PPD ACT will "help [researchers] understand the genetic link of postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis." Vigod added,
Our goal is to use this data to develop preventative strategies and targeted treatments for women who are at risk of developing these mental health challenges.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is overseeing the study in the United States and will collect data from the free app available in the App Store and Play store. To be eligible for the study, you must be a woman over the age of 18 and have experienced either PPD or PPP. Symptoms for PPD include, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feelings of anger.
- Withdrawing from loved ones.
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby.
Symptoms of PPP include:
- bizarre behavior along with mania
- sleep disturbance
There are two phases of the study, the first of which is collecting data from the free app by answering questions about your mood, anxiety symptoms after giving birth, etc. You will get feedback from your responses as well as information on doctors who specialize in PPD and PPP in your area.
In phase two, some women might be sent a kit in the mail for saliva collection. The researchers at PPD ACT believe that these saliva samples could make a significant difference in identifying genetic links to PPD, explaining:
If we do this for tens of thousands of women, we can identify the genetic differences in women who got postpartum depression. This will allow us to develop new treatments.
As of April, they have sent out 5,000 spit kits in the U.S. The goal of the study is to reach 100,000 women worldwide... and find a way to predict the possibility of postpartum depression so that it can be treated early.