Postpartum depression (PPD) affects about 1 in 7 birthing people, making it the most common complication of childbirth. Individuals with PPD may experience heightened anxiety and sadness, and struggle to connect with their child

In a new study published in Pediatrics, LDI Senior Fellows James Guevara and David Mandell and their team investigated the impact of a social media-based parenting program on new parents with symptoms of PPD. 

The randomized trial took place at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia from December 2019 to August 2021. One group was exposed to the Parenting with Depression program administered through Facebook, which seeks to enhance parenting skills and improve parent-child interactions for parents with postpartum depression, plus moodgym, an online therapy program shown to be effective in reducing mild-to-moderate depression symptoms. The other group was exposed only to moodgym.

For more on this topic, see Racial Disparities in Postpartum Visits Decreased With Telehealth
by Christine Weeks and Digital Medicine 2.0 – The Questions and Daunting Challenges of Expedient Clinical Use by Hoag Levins.

The Effect of the Parenting with Depression Program on Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Across the study groups, the intervention showed improvements in depression symptoms and parenting responsiveness. However, the combination of the Facebook-administered Parenting with Depression program and moodgym led to a more rapid decline in symptoms of PPD for new parents.

COVID-19 Pandemic Worsened Symptoms

The study began before the pandemic and the onset of COVID-19 significantly impacted the contextual landscape of depressive symptoms. The pandemic resulted in a substantial worsening of depressive symptoms and limited engagement with the parenting program for some participants. However, highly engaged participants showed the greatest improvements in responsive parenting.

Using Digital Tools to Treat Postpartum Depression

Untreated PPD exacts an expensive societal toll. While screening programs have expanded our ability to identify the condition, treating all those affected remains a challenge. In-person parenting programs have shown mixed results regarding depressive symptoms and parenting behaviors, but don’t address barriers to in-person attendance among women with postpartum depressive symptoms. We need more options. This work adds to the growing understanding of the role of digital tools to advance health care delivery. As one of the first programs to examine the effects of administering a parenting program through social media, this study provides valuable insights into the potential benefits of virtual interventions for postpartum depression. 

The study, “Social Media-Based Parenting Program for Women With Postpartum Depressive Symptoms: An RCT,” was published on February 21, 2023 in Pediatrics. Authors include James Guevara, Knashawn Morales, David Mandell, Marjie Mogul, Talia Charidah, Michael Luethke, Jungwon Min, Roseanne Clark, Laura Betancourt, and Rhonda Byrd.  


Mackenzie Bolas

Policy Coordinator

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