Mood-tracking app empowers expectant and new mums to manage mental wellbeing


Thursday, 10 June, 2021

Mood-tracking app empowers expectant and new mums to manage mental wellbeing

An evidence-based app — YourTime — has been developed by the University of South Australia and parent support group Village Foundation to help women track their mental wellbeing during pregnancy and early motherhood. The app responds to priorities in perinatal (the period from the conception of a child through to the first year after birth) mental health by providing a digitalised tool that enables women to self-monitor and track their mood during pregnancy and early mothering, helping them to recognise early signs of deteriorating mental wellbeing or conversely to acknowledge they’re doing well.

Having a baby can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but for a new mum it can also be exhausting and challenging. In Australia, up to one in five expectant or new mothers will experience perinatal anxiety or depression, with the illness affecting about 100,000 families each year.

UniSA’s Associate Professor Lois McKellar, lead researcher and midwife, said the new app will provide immediate support for women who may be struggling with low mood, or beginning to experience anxiety and depression.

“It’s natural for women to worry about the impending arrival of a new baby — they’re bringing a new life into the world, and they’re unsure about the changes that this little baby will bring,” Associate Professor McKellar said.

“It’s also very common for new mothers to experience what is often called the ‘baby blues’ — being a little teary or anxious in the immediate days and weeks after the baby’s birth. But if these feelings start to cause concern or stop a new or expectant mum from functioning normally, she may be experiencing perinatal anxiety or depression.

“The YourTime app will help a woman keep track of how she’s feeling during pregnancy and motherhood, enabling her [to] quickly recognise any changes in mood, behaviours or feelings.

“Guided by a midwife avatar, women will be able to monitor their wellbeing over time, access education and support materials, as well as connect to other women and mothers via a networking forum. Importantly, it puts the woman in control, empowering her to be more aware of her thoughts and feelings.”

The app is based on scientific evidence and has been designed with input from mothers to ensure it is appealing and appropriate for today’s women. Using a contemporary, easy-to-use design, it offers a de-medicalised approach to wellbeing and encourages women to think more about their mental health.

Associate Professor McKellar said the aim of the app is to prevent women and mothers from slipping between the gaps, especially when their focus is on supporting their new baby.

“A generation ago, postnatal depression was often brushed off as the ‘baby blues’, even when it was actually something more,” she said. “Now, people are more aware of perinatal depression and anxiety, but the supports are not always available at their fingertips.

“This app will ensure women feel connected, supported and informed at any time of the day or night — even at a midnight feeding — which makes it an extremely appealing tool to support mental health and wellbeing.”

A prototype version of YourTime will soon be available for trial.

UniSA is launching a new Mental Health Research Fund to help tackle critical frontline issues like this. To find out more, visit www.unisa.edu.au/mentalhealth.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Aliaksei Lasevich

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