Becoming a mother is a huge transition in a woman’s life, and pregnancy and the postpartum period is characterized by emotional turmoil. It is well-known that becoming a mother is demanding and can be overwhelming, which can make it difficult to know when negative feelings or low mood could be an indication of perinatal depression. In fact, many women only realize after the fact that they have been depressed. Over the years, studies have typically found a prevalence rate of 10-15%, and recent studies suggest that the numbers may be on the rise.
Being depressed during pregnancy and the first year of one’s child’s life puts a major toll on the entire family and increases the risk of future psychological problems for both the mother, partner, and child. Moreover, it is not unusual for the mother to feel like she has missed out on the first part of her baby’s life, which in turn can lead to feelings of sadness and guilt.
Despite the high prevalence, perinatal depression is often left undetected and untreated, and consequently, families suffer in silence. This is one of the reasons why Mamma Mia was developed. Mamma Mia is a freely available self-help app that starts mid-pregnancy and lasts until the baby is 6 months old. Mamma Mia is an example of an evidence-based intervention that integrates research on perinatal mental health with clinical practice and feedback from end-users. The overarching aim of Mamma Mia is to prevent perinatal depression and enhance subjective well-being.
Mamma Mia is tailored specifically to the perinatal phase and consists of 44 sessions that targets risk and protective factors for perinatal depressive symptoms such as attachment, couple satisfaction, social support, breastfeeding, and subjective well-being. It starts in the second trimester, when women typically seek information pertaining to motherhood and are intrinsically motivated to engage in healthy behaviors for themselves and their babies. In other words, this is a time during which women are particularly open to change. Women are guided through the program in a step-by-step fashion, in accordance with the psychological preparations of becoming a mother.
Thus far, one randomized controlled trial has demonstrated the effectiveness of Mamma Mia on depressive symptoms and subjective well-being among perinatal women in Norway. Through interviews, we have learned that women appreciate how Mamma Mia is an evidence-based intervention that provides information that they do not get anywhere else. They also describe how Mamma Mia has made them more aware of their own mental health and has enabled them to better utilize the regular consultations with midwives and public health nurses. Moreover, women express a clear wish for Mamma Mia to become a part of primary care.
National guidelines accentuate that health care providers should identify and address perinatal depression; however, it is not specified how this should be done. Mamma Mia has the potential to aid health care professionals with both identification and prevention of perinatal depression, through increasing awareness and help-seeking behaviors. Notably, it cannot replace systematic screening and follow-up in primary care. □
If you would like to read more about Mamma Mia, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has the license to the program and is the distributer of information: https://tjenester.helsenorge.no/verktoy.
You can find information about the app and where to find it here: https://www.mammamia.app/.
Here you can read to scientific articles on the programs effect on depression and well-being: