Mental health symptoms - especially depression and anxiety - are very common in new parents, affecting close to 20% of mothers and at least 10% of fathers. When these symptoms progress to severe levels, they can become more difficult to treat. Early identification and prompt treatment are ideal but despite broad awareness that symptoms in new parents are common, few checks are in place to automatically assess and monitor them.
While evidence-based symptom surveys that identify parents who may be at risk for postpartum mental health disorders are out there, along with effective medications and non-medication based treatment options, most primary care settings do not have a system in place to ensure that parents with mental health challenges (especially fathers) are identified early on and treated.
Within weeks of the birth of their new baby, this study uses a customized website that integrated electronic medical records and secure email to engage parents in assessing their mental health symptoms. Surveys are also sent on behalf of family doctors and are later used to support the development of a tailored care plan, including advice about options for referrals, treatment, and local community-based psycho-educational and/or social supports. This e-health intervention also includes a web-based application for parents, including seamless integration with their electronic medical records (EMR), so that when the family doctor sees them in clinic, the right information is easily accessed for discussion.