App aims to close the gap in postnatal support for new parents 5 years ago

App aims to close the gap in postnatal support for new parents

A nursing research team in Singapore have developed a unique mobile app that provides much needed postnatal support for new mums and dads.

A nursing studies team from the National University of Singapore's school of medicine have developed a mobile app to deliver postnatal educational programmes and provide postnatal supportive care on the go. Findings from a pilot test showed that new mums and dads who used the app experienced significantly better parenting outcomes.

The Home But Not Alone app was developed to address the current gap in the continuity of care for new parents between the maternity ward and home setting, and help couples make a smoother transition to parenthood.

Assistant Professor Shefaly Shorey from the university's Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies, says that the early period after a mum gives birth can be a stressful transitional period for both parents:

"The app is specially designed to deliver postnatal psychoeducation to new parents who are not confident in caring for their newborn on their own. This provides additional support to help parents cope with the challenges of parenthood and newborn care."

Piloted over a period of six months, with a total of 250 participants, the early-postnatal educational app was found to boost the parenting confidence of new mums and dads:

"The mobile application assured the new parents of better perceived social support and hence encouraged them to proactively seek help when they encountered uncertainties and brought them greater parenting satisfaction - all of which positively affect their emotional and general well-being."

Gap in existing postnatal support

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The early postpartum period is often a challenging but crucial period for new parents because they typically feel anxious or overwhelmed while trying to cope with their new roles. Early studies have shown that postnatal educational programmes can help to make the transition into parenthood easier. The added knowledge and support acquired from such programmes strengthen the psychological wellbeing of the parents, according to Professor Shorey:

"There's a gap in existing postnatal supportive care in Singapore. Here, the average length of stay for mothers post-delivery is two to three days and early discharge within twenty-four hours is also not uncommon. It is not possible to carry out such educational interventions smoothly and effectively for these short hospital stays. New parents, especially, feel overwhelmed by the amount of information given to them by their healthcare providers during their short stay, and some have difficulties retaining the information."

She says that, although postnatal education programmes are beneficial, the focus remain primarily on mums:

"Based on our previous studies, both mothers and fathers, alike, would like to have fathers be more involved in the caring for their newborn. Fathers often feel that they lack the confidence and know-how. The delivery of the programmes through this mobile app is able to help overcome this challenge. It equips fathers with child-caring information and a helpline at their fingertips so they are more empowered to step up and take on a more proactive role."

Home but not alone 

The app, which took the team six months to develop, featured educational content on topics ranging from newborn to maternal care and videos on various newborn care tasks such as bathing and breastfeeding. It also provided the new parents the opportunity to communicate with healthcare professionals; participants could ask specific questions about any parenting matter via a forum on the app and these would be answered by a dedicated mid-wife at a scheduled time daily.

The effectiveness of the app was evaluated by comparing the results from an intervention group which had access to the mobile app on top of the routine maternity care provided by the hospital, against the results from a control group which only received routine maternity care support. The routine postnatal care involved educational support on maternal and infant care from nurses and midwives during each mother's hospital stay and an appointment with doctors between ten days to six weeks postpartum.

At the end of the four-week access to the app, the intervention group had scored higher for parenting confidence, perceived social support and parenting satisfaction, compared with the control group which had no access to the app. Feedback from new parents was largely positive, and all of the participants said they found the app easy to use and a convenient information resource.

Professor Shorey and her team are now refining the app to introduce educational sessions and care guides from as early as a mum discovers she's pregnant until after she has given birth. The team will also incorporate some recommended features from the user feedback before testing the app further in some local hospitals. The team also plan to do a longer term study on the postnatal programme, to see whether it could help reduce postnatal depression among parents.