There’s probably nothing Postpartum Progress hears about more from moms than their concerns about taking medication as a treatment for postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and all other perinatal mental illnesses. Is it safe? Why do I need an antidepressant? What about the side effects? How long will it take to feel better? Why can’t I just be happy on my own? What if I don’t feel better? What is the right dosage? How do I know this is the right antidepressant for me?
I know. I GET IT. SO MUCH. When I was first diagnosed with postpartum OCD, I spent 8 months seeing a psychiatrist who put me on medication after medication after medication and I wasn’t getting much better. I had no idea anymore whether how I was feeling was because of my illness, my meds or both. All I knew was that I was horribly ill and miserable and I was completely confused as to why. I later switched to a different psychiatrist who specialized in maternal mental health and she helped me find the right treatment plan in pretty short order. Hooray for effective treatment!!!
Here’s the thing: For some moms, medication is the right answer. Not the lazy answer. Not the weak answer. The right answer for a mom who is in crisis and needs to get stable so that she can get back to functioning on a daily basis. What matters most is your health and your ability to be a mother in a way that is sometimes fulfilling and sometimes really stressful, but not permanently miserable.
At Postpartum Progress, we’re interested in harnessing the power of digital technology and the power of data from all the moms in our large community to find more and better ways to help you find out what’s wrong, help you get the best information, and help you get the best and most effective help for YOU as quickly as possible. That’s why we’re excited to launch a new partnership today with a company called Iodine to test out their new app called Start postpartum depression app. (Iodine is a technology company founded by Thomas Goetz, the former executive editor of Wired magazine, and Matt Mohebi, a former Google software engineer.)
Start is an iPhone app for people who have just started with an antidepressant. It works with you to track how you are feeling on your medication and what kinds of side effects you are having. It provides you information about the experience thousands of others have had — for instance, did most people who took a certain medication have the same side effect you’re having and how long did it take for that side effect to go away, if at all? And it helps you assess over a six-week period whether you are feeling better. If you aren’t, it prompts you to reach out to your doctor to discuss your treatment plan. The key is to help you find what works for you sooner, rather than later, so that you can get better. As Iodine explains it:
“The promise is not just better adherence (the medical term for taking the drug on schedule, as the doctor prescribed), it’s what we call Therapeutic Optimization. For the individual, this means getting to the best drug, faster … On a population level, it means learning which medications work best for which types of people, and improving how medicine assesses, prescribes for, and monitors patients. It’s what we mean when we say our mission is to turn experience into better medicine.”
We know a lot of things to be true:
1) Many moms with postpartum depression and anxiety are afraid of taking medication. Often they’ll quit taking it after a day or two because they are so anxious about what it might do to them or how it will make them feel. Did you know 30% of people who are prescribed an antidepressant quit taking it in the first month? What if you knew that a side effect was only temporary? What if you had some information that helped allay your fears, so that you don’t quit a treatment before it has had time to work?
2) Some women receive prescriptions for antidepressants without accurate follow up planned between doctor and mom. According to Iodine, “Only a third of patients treated for depression have a follow-up with their doctor in the next 3 months.” Moms don’t always get the opportunity to revisit how things are going with their doc, and at Postpartum Progress we end up hearing from women who’ve been on a medication for months, and sometimes even years, on end but are still struggling mightily and convinced they’re never going to get better. They give up believing that they’ll recover. That’s not okay with us. We want moms to feel that they are empowered to communicate with their doctors.
3) Sometimes you might actually be getting better and not realize it. You’re tired. You’re stress. You’re worried. And depression after all makes it hard to have hope and see when things might be better than you think you are.
Start was designed to help address these issues. It starts by getting to know you and the side effects and symptoms you are most worried about, as well as what your goals are. Then every couple of days the app checks in on you and how you are doing. Every two weeks you’ll get a progress report and at six weeks — the point at which an effective antidepressant should be working — you’ll get an assessment. If the assessment indicates the medication might not be particularly effective for you, Start will suggest options for you to discuss with your doctor. Start doesn’t provide medical advice or diagnoses — it simply helps you have more information.
Postpartum Progress believes in empowering moms, and we want you to have better information too. To use Start or learn more, visit http://www.iodine.com/start/postpartum. Once you download and launch the app, BE SURE to enter the referral code PPP2015.
Oh, and for you Android users, I know, I know. I’m an Android owner myself (Samsung Galaxy) so believe you me I want them to make Start available on Android just as much as you do. They’re working on it. Patience, my friends. 😉
Here’s Iodine’s announcement from this morning as well.