Islanders Create ‘VeedaMom App’ to Detect Depression During and After Pregnancy

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Almost 30 percent of women all over the world experience feelings of anxiety, fear, insecurity and sadness after the birth of a baby. These feelings are commonly known as postpartum depression (PPD). However, little is known about the depression that affects thousands of women during pregnancy, lesser known as peripartum depression. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi alumnas Dr. Adriana Dyurich, ‘17 and Dr. Veena Prasad, ’18 created “VeedaMom App”, an educational mobile app to help women cope with both PPD and peripartum depression.

“There is a stigma associated with depression during or after pregnancy because women often have the misconception that a new baby brings happiness and that they should suppress any negative feelings,” said Dyurich, who knows firsthand the distress PPD can cause. “We want to normalize the feelings that so many women have and help them flourish and embrace ideas of wellness.”

VeedaMom, which is currently free to iOS users with an iPhone or iPad, helps assess and track a woman’s emotional wellbeing using a modified Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). The app sends weekly reminders to users to answer 10 questions and creates a graph based on the answers. The app includes psycho-educational videos, audio clips and mindfulness exercises so users can learn to manage stress and anxiety. VeedaMom is the first app using technology to detect depression during pregnancy.

“Adriana and I know what it means to be pregnant, and the big change it represents not only in a woman’s life, but also in the family structure,” shared Prasad, who earned her Ph.D. in Counselor Education. “It’s important to us to provide tools to help women manage depression through VeedaMom’s ‘feel-good activity list.’ Activities include walking on the beach, having dinner with their partner and even taking a relaxing bubble bath.”

During the app registration process, users are prompted to include an anonymous emergency contact number to call in case their results indicate eminent risk for depression or self-harm. In addition, if a mom is assessed as having suicidal thoughts, the app will prompt her to immediately call her physician, emergency contact or a suicide hotline.

“When the user registers for VeedaMom, they agree the app isn’t a replacement for professional therapy, but a tool that could help them realize they might need therapy,” said Dyurich.

Dyurich and Prasad chose the name “VeedaMom” to represent a combination of their first names and also because “vida” means “life” in Spanish. In fact, the app is available in both English and Spanish with the goal of targeting underserved populations in South Texas. Future plans for VeedaMom include a Pro version for exclusive use by mental health professionals and health specialists like pediatricians and obstetricians.

“Responses to the app have been amazing,” said Prasad. “Our qualitative data shows that when women use the educational material in the app, they face their feelings and thoughts in positive ways, while our quantitative results have shown that using the app reduces depression by 15 percent in postpartum mothers compared with just information provided on paper. Women who used the app have taken time for self-care which has reflected in the results.”

The mobile app started as Dyurich’s doctoral dissertation project, and in fall 2017, Dyurich won the Doctoral Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) based on her research. Dyurich currently sees clients at a local private counseling clinic.

Prasad is a success coach in the College of Nursing and Health Science at A&M-Corpus Christi and is also expecting to graduate in spring 2019 with a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School.

“We both are committed to providing support through our app to women so they can enjoy their babies,” concluded Prasad. “As mothers, we both feel passionately about being part of a women’s journey to and through motherhood.”