Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are estimated to occur in up to 20 percent of women who are either pregnant or have recently given birth and can include postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis (Sockol et al., 2015). Of women experiencing a PMAD, only a small number will seek treatment. Evidence suggests that early childhood development can be impacted by a PMAD diagnosis left untreated (Letourneau et al., 2012). The prevalence and limited treatment of these illnesses make PMADs a significant public health issue in the United States.
Postpartum Progress is an innovative leader in the development of online peer support networks and has successfully built an online community that provides peer support through online communication and social media. As information technology has evolved, individuals have replaced physical connections based on shared geography with virtual relationships, gathering in communities of shared experience, where online connectivity enables individuals to keep in touch within their social network after physically disconnecting from it (Davis & Calitz, 2014).
This Tier I project is designed to develop CER-based research questions related to how different models of peer support enabled by technology can be used in addition to traditional treatment options (medication and/or psychotherapy) or as an accepted standalone treatment for milder illness. Additional collaboration with stakeholders will enable us to understand the efficacy of peer support to augment the work of clinicians, and to create additional treatment options for patients and their families, with emphasis on increasing access for underserved and marginalized communities.