Researchers hope app helps understand, treatment of postpartum depression

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Marcé of North America is holding its 4th Biennial Perinatal Mental Health Conference at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

"Postpartum depression is the common medical complication of childbirth, impacting 1 in 8 women that give birth. It's something that can be really devastating, it's also the number one cause of maternal mortality from suicide," explained Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, the group's president and the Director of the UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders.

In 2016, Meltzer-Brody created Postpartum Depression: Action towards Causes and Treatments (PPD ACT) a free app that served as a research study for women battling postpartum depression. After filling out a survey, women then provide their DNA to be tested to see if doctors can determine any genetic markers. So far, they've sent out 6,000 saliva DNA collection kits, making it the largest genetic study of postpartum depression.

"It is meant to understand what is the genetic signature, the underlying genes that cause this disorder. If we understand that, then we can figure out how can we prevent it. How do we screen ahead of time to ward it off? How do we continue to develop treatments that are very specific and decrease suffering," Meltzer-Brody said.

A couple of months ago, the human experience firm WongDoody reached out to Meltzer-Brody, offering to revamp their app and marketing efforts.

"Once a year, we do what is called a 'push project' which is a pro bono project out of the agency where we partner with someone around a cause that we believe in," said Erin Mullhorn, an account executive with WongDoody.

The new app is called Mom Genes Fight PPD, and is available for download on Android, with plans to be ready on iOS this weekend.

Meltzer-Brody is hoping it leads to more responses.

"Larger numbers are critical to have the best results in genetic studies," said Meltzer-Brody.

The Mayo Clinic notes postpartum depression symptoms can include anger, anxiety, hopelessness, mood swings, irritability, lack of concentration, depressive thoughts, inability to sleep, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

If you or a loved one is showing symptoms of postpartum depression and is in need of assistance, click here.
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