For the study, at-risk, low-income mothers of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds were sent supportive text messages four times a week for six months in addition to traditional counseling services in an academic pediatric office. By the end of the study, 4,158 text messages were successfully delivered to 54 mothers.
At Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, all mothers who brought in an infant for a well-child visit was screened for postpartum depression between December 2012 and June 2014.
English-speaking mothers living in the City of St. Louis who scored above 10 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) were asked by researchers to join the study. Most of the study’s participants were unmarried and did not have a deep support system.
Over the six month time frame, each participant received the same, non-randomized message script, which had been developed by members of the project team. Some of the messages allowed for a yes/no response in regards to whether the mother would like a follow-up phone call.
The messages 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.”)
“There is a cultural norm in this community of strength, of absorbing whatever comes at them,” said study author Matthew A. Broom, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University and SLUCare physician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
“We want to break that barrier that equates reaching out for help as weakness.”
The researchers found that text messaging is a relatively low-cost and useful way to serve as adjunct therapy to provide private 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,” Broom said. “This is a relatively low-cost way to reach people.”
Broom noted that improving maternal health, including a mother’s mental state, is good for her child.
“Moms that are well from a mental health perspective have children with better developmental outcomes,” he said. “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.”
The study is published in the journal JMIR Mental Health.
Source: Saint Louis University