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Text messages can offer extra support to new mothers with depression

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Text messages are a good way to support mothers with postpartum depression, especially those from lower income groups, suggest US researchers.

A team from Saint Louis University evaluated the feasibility of sending supportive text messages to low-income mothers from ethnic minority backgrounds with postpartum depression.

Mothers found to be at risk received supportive text messages four times a week for six months, in addition to receiving access to traditional counselling services.

“Mothers that are well from a mental health perspective have children with better developmental outcomes”

Matthew Broom

Each participant received the same, non-randomised message script without repeat over the six-months of the study, the results of which were published in the journal JMIR Mental Health.

Some of the messages allowed for a “yes/no” response in regards to whether the mother would like a follow-up phone call.

Meanwhile, others ranged from informational – “having a routine is comforting for babies” – to motivational and reflective – “Today let’s focus on making decisions from the facts not our feelings”.

By the end of the research period, 4,158 text messages – 86% of those sent – were successfully delivered to 54 mothers.

The researchers said 82% of mothers considered the messages were relevant to them personally.

Study author Dr Matthew Broom, assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University, noted that most of the study’s participants were unmarried and did not have a deep support system.

“There is a cultural norm in this community of strength, of absorbing whatever comes at them,” he said. “We want to break that barrier that equates reaching out for help as weakness.

Saint Louis University

An example of one of the supportive texts messages sent to study participants

The study concluded that text messaging was a relatively low-cost and feasible way to serve as adjunct therapy to provide support for at-risk mothers suffering from postpartum depression.

“The study shows us that there is another way to make contact with a group that has an extreme need,” said Dr Broom.

“If we can provide more support and services for the high-risk mothers we serve, we will be able to create a greater positive impact for their children,” he added.



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