The Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore has developed a mobile parenting app which found to be particularly helpful for mothers dealing with postpartum depression amid the recent global pandemic.
The Supportive Parenting app provides information and tips through videos, podcasts, and written articles based on the expertise of Singaporean obstetricians, psychiatrists, nurses, and midwives. It has information on parental self-care, parenting, and baby care (including tutorials on baby bathing, bonding with the newborn, and breastfeeding). It also offers tips on coping with psychological and emotional challenges after birth.
There is a discussion forum where parents can post and respond to queries from other parents. Users can also seek emotional support via chat with 29 trained peer volunteers, who are parents themselves.
NUS Nursing studied their app’s effectiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in 2020. About 200 pregnant persons in their third trimester and their spouses were recruited. Findings have been published in five separate papers in the Journal of Medical Internet Research and Journal of Clinical Nursing since 2021.
A significant finding was how the app helped gradually reduce symptoms of depression in mothers after one month of giving birth. “This reduction in depressive symptoms was maintained until the last follow-up at nine months postpartum,” the researchers said.
Another interesting finding was infants whose parents are users of the Supportive Parenting app exhibited lower risks of having developmental delays, including cognitive, motor, communication, and social skills, than those whose parents are non-users.
Researchers also pointed out improvements in parental bonding, self-efficacy, perceived social support, and parenting satisfaction.
The research team now plans to further evaluate the app’s effectiveness among parents with psycho-social disadvantages, from low socio-economic backgrounds, and those having children with special needs. Besides enhancing the mobile app, they are also looking to make it commercially available “in the coming years,” a press release noted.
WHY IT MATTERS
Transitioning to parenthood or taking on new parenting responsibilities can be stressful for parents. It does not help that oftentimes support is not available, especially for new parents.
The recent pandemic saw the influx of mobile tools that support parents’ mental wellbeing. An example is Talkspace‘s Lasting Parenting Guide which provides self-guided digital sessions on psycho-education, reflections, exercise and journaling, as well as mental health prompts for self-care and emotional regulation. Spring Health, which has expanded into family and paediatric health space, now offers chats with therapists, social workers, and parenting coaches, as well as group support.
ON THE RECORD
Technology-based interventions, coupled with peer support and localised information, can contribute to more holistic perinatal support for parents and better developmental outcomes for infants, NUS Nursing emphasised.
“Our study proved that the mobile health intervention was a good source of evidence-based yet localised information and reliable support to help parents care for newborns and their own emotional and overall wellbeing,” said Shefaly Shorey, NUS Nursing associate professor and study lead.