Experiencing anxiety or depression during pregnancy? There will soon be an app for that

WATCH: Calgary researchers are working on a new smart phone app to help pregnant woman manage depression or anxiety. Heather Yourex-West explains.

Researchers at the University of Calgary are developing a smart phone app to help pregnant women manage depression and anxiety.

“The HOPE app is intended to be a single virtual access point for comprehensive mental care in pregnancy,” said Dawn Kingston, a researcher with the University of Calgary’s faculty of nursing. “It would be used by pregnant women, who could enter it to do an online screen. Once they get the screening, they would get personalized feedback on their status and with that information, the app can then identify the best services available.”

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Kingston says one in four women experience symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy but in Canada, women typically aren’t screened for mental health issues until after their babies are born. Women also often face barriers when trying to access mental health support.

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“At this point, there is such limited access for face-to-face therapy. Pregnant women are sometimes needing to wait nine to 18 months in their community so the wait time is too long.”

The HOPE app is expected to be completed this winter and will be rolled out first to women in selected communities across Alberta. The technology has already been tested by 1,400 women in Alberta and Ontario with promising results.

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“We’ve been trialing this model of care for the last four years and what we’ve found is that it actually works for reducing anxiety in pregnancy, reducing depression in pregnancy and preventing post-partum depression.”