Reimagining Postpartum Care with the help of Biofeedback

Helping new parents automatically track and understand their emotions, using biofeedback, could tackle existing communication and intervention gaps around mental wellbeing and postnatal care.

Reimagining Postpartum Care with the help of Biofeedback

When it comes to having a baby, many parents think about the physical or practical changes this new chapter will bring. They weigh up how it will impact their social lives, how it will shift their priorities, and how their responsibilities will transform once they are parents. But what is all too often overlooked, is how this huge life change — including pregnancy itself — may impact the mental wellbeing of new parents, particularly new mothers.

Survey results of 700 new mothers talking about how much mental health was in the focus during and after their pregnancy.
Photo credit Liv Bruce

We know both men and women are at much higher risk of experiencing mental health difficulties during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. 25% of new mothers and one in ten fathers experience depression after the birth of their child. In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death in women during the first year after pregnancy.

But despite the evidence, there is an expectation that the challenges that come with pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood should be taken in your stride. As a result, mental health often only takes the spotlight when it is already on a downward spiral having a significant impact on the lives of parents and of those around them.

According to a survey conducted by Maven Clinic on 700 new mothers, 58% shared that they were not screened for mental health, 47% confessed that they did not prioritise their mental health during this period, and 56% reported that their mood disorder went undiagnosed. These figures reveal that parents, especially women, are not getting the critical support at a time when they — and those dependent on them — need it most. This needs to change.

Thankfully, some femtech companies are starting to change the paradigm of how pre and postnatal care should be delivered. For example:

  • Maven Clinic is the largest virtual clinic for women’s and family health, providing continuous, holistic care.
  • She Matters is an app focusing on postpartum anxiety and depression in Black women, connecting them to culturally sensitive therapists.
  • Mahmee is creating an integrated care delivery platform for maternal and infant health.
  • Babyscripts is the first-ever virtual care platform prescribed by healthcare providers to expectant mothers at the start of their pregnancy.
Black and white photo of mother kissing her newborn baby. Quote over image: Kouo aims to improve postnatal care by enabling apps to respond to people’s emotions in real-time using biofeedback from existing wearable devices.
Photo credit Sergiu Valena

Digital solutions like this are just some of the vital steps being taken to ensure new parents are afforded the care they deserve. Kouo aims to take this further by supporting apps to respond to people’s emotions in real-time using biofeedback from existing wearable devices. By putting measures in place to help new parents monitor and understand their own mental wellbeing, Kouo can help parents receive more timely, tailored support when they need it most.

For example, Kouo’s automatic mood tracking feature could:

  • provide clear data on the emotional state of parents to help them come to terms with how they are feeling and how to ask for the right support
  • provide frictionless support to parents who are already time-poor and exhausted by removing the need to self-identify emotions and manually log events. Instead, moods can be automatically linked to events, new medication, or activities.
  • track the trends and patterns of emotions to help highlight early signs of declining mental well-being, allowing parents to share this data with their support networks or care providers before symptoms worsen

We’ve already seen the tremendous influence and power this kind of automated emotion tracking can have in creating more personalised content. Kouo recently ran a study to monitor the impact of Headspace meditations, looking at how emotion-adaptive features and tracking may impact meditation uptake, habit formation, and overall experience.

The study found that it helped participants:

  • visualise their mental stress which in turn made it more manageable
  • conceptualise how the meditation affected their mental wellbeing and thus encouraged them to continue their practice. Participants were 59% more likely to use Headspace meditations if augmented with Kouo’s features as they were able to understand the short and long-term effects of their practice.
  • reach a greater sense of mindfulness. Emotion-adaptive features increased calmness by 75% compared to non-adaptive content.

Having a support system built on Kouo’s technology can help new parents break down the changes they are experiencing in their lives into manageable chunks.

The benefits of these features are immeasurable. They can be integrated into apps and services new parents already use, care providers recommend, or insurance companies provide access to, leading to better preventive care, a granular and personalised view of health, more effective symptom tracking and management, and access to customised help and information for new parents.

Our existing technologies such as wearables (like the Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit etc.) can fully support this shift in the care we so desperately need. Kouo can enable femtech companies to leverage biofeedback from these existing wearables to provide 24h support and care to the people that rely on them most.