The Future of Maternal Mental Health

By Melinda Nicci - 15:36

The journey through pregnancy and early motherhood is often painted as an exciting, happy time; but the reality is far more complex, and we can't ignore that with the highs come the lows. In fact, maternal mental illness is sadly more common than you might think, with 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth developing a mental health problem of some kind. This can have far-reaching and significant consequences.

A 2018 report highlighted that, shockingly, suicide is the leading cause of death among women in the year following their pregnancy in the UK and Ireland. And disorders like anxiety and depression, the most frequently experienced perinatal mental illnesses, can be debilitating for the person affected, and potentially seriously affect the child's life outcomes too.

The good news is that technology is paving the way for better maternal wellbeing, and these opportunities are only likely to grow... so what does the future hold?

Better Diagnostics

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are likely to prove invaluable in healthcare, helping doctors to identify and treat our illnesses faster. Likewise, AI-powered technology that can diagnose specific mental health problems in patients is currently being developed, meaning signs of perinatal mental illnesses could be recognised more quickly in the future (vital for the wellbeing of both mom and baby). 

Through AI, machines can access far greater amounts of data than ever before and better recognise patterns that may be otherwise missed, making it easier to predict any potential problems and prevent human error. That's not to say that there will be no need for human intervention in healthcare in the future - but it's clear that AI will play a critical role.

Promoting Self-Care

Some argue that technology is making us less mindful, but if we use it properly, it can actually help us to be more present. Apps on our smartphones are more commonly encouraging us to check-in with our wellbeing, helping us to consider how we're doing in that moment -- which is incredibly important when it comes to managing our mental health.

We've already seen this, for example, in the form of meditation apps. But the rise of hyper-personalisation in tech means we'll probably see a growing number of platforms offer more specific insights into our mood and needs in the future. Deep learning technologies powered by AI can keep track of when we're most in need of TLC, acting as a reminder to stop and take a deep breath when things get tough -- perfect if (like me!) you're constantly surrounded by distractions.

Keeping Motivated 

When you're pregnant or getting to grips with being a new mom, it can be hard to find the motivation sometimes -- but exercise is a proven mood booster. What's more, technology is actually inspiring us to get off the couch, with more apps like fitness trackers encouraging us to workout and holding us accountable to our goals. 

Wearables that log our daily steps and burned calories increase motivation and give us a better understanding of our general wellbeing. And there's a rising number of exercise instruction apps, which are perfect for those that can't physically get to the gym (wink, wink... Baby2Body in particular for moms and moms-to-be).

We're already seeing the future of personalised virtual coaching, live-streamed exercise classes, and VR fitness, and those trends are only likely to grow -- all meaning we can exercise more easily from the comfort of our own home. No more queuing up for the running machine!

Offering Support

Whilst technology won't -- and shouldn't -- replace our human relationships, it can now act as a 'friend' that supports you in hard times, encouraging you to talk about things that are weighing you down and potentially harming your psychological wellbeing.

For example, we're seeing a growing number of CBT-based chatbots that allow you to communicate anonymously through voice assistant or instant message -- particularly effective for those who don't feel comfortable talking openly about how they feel. Apps like this can respond with personalised content tailored to the user's needs and can even predict when someone is feeling low, making it easier to spot any red flags.

It's clear that technology has so much potential when it comes to mental health, and especially so in the context of maternal mental wellbeing. At Baby2Body we believe in making the most of these opportunities to empower women with the confidence and knowledge to navigate this challenging, yet rewarding time of their life. Because having happy and healthy moms and moms-to-be is crucial for our future generations to thrive -- and we're committed to making that happen by using technology as a tool for good.

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