Digital peer-support platform (7cups) as an adjunct treatment for women with postpartum depression: Feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy study

Amit Baumel, Amanda Tinkelman, Nandita Mathur, John M. Kane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Peer support is considered to be an important framework of support for mothers experiencing postpartum depression (PPD); however, some barriers exist that may limit its use including peer availability and mothers’ lack of time due to child care. Objective: This non-randomized study was designed to examine the feasibility, acceptance, and preliminary clinical outcomes of using 7 Cups of Tea (7Cups), a digital platform that delivers self-help tools and 24/7 emotional support delivered by trained volunteers, as an adjunct treatment for mothers diagnosed with PPD. Methods: Mothers with PPD were referred during intake to the study coach who provided guidance about 7Cups. 7Cups features included self-help tools and chats with trained volunteers who had experienced a perinatal mood disorder in their past. Acceptability was measured by examining self-reports and user engagement with the program. The primary outcome was the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) change score between pre-and postintervention at 2 months, as collected in usual care by clinicians blinded to the study questions. Using a propensity score matching to control for potential confounders, we compared women receiving 7Cups to women receiving treatment as usual (TAU). Results: Participants (n=19) proactively logged into 7Cups for a median of 12 times and 175 minutes. Program use was mostly through the mobile app (median of mobile use 94%) and between 18:00 and 08:00 when clinicians are unavailable (68% of total program use time). Participants chatted with volunteers for a total of 3064 minutes and have indicated in their responses 0 instances in which they felt unsafe. Intent-to-treat analysis revealed that 7Cups recipients experienced significant decreases in EPDS scores (P<.001, Cohen d=1.17). No significant difference in EPDS decrease over time was found between 7Cups and TAU, yet the effect size was medium favoring 7Cups (P=.05, Cohen d=0.58). Conclusions: This study supports using a computerized method to train lay people, without any in-person guidance or screening, and engage them with patients diagnosed with mental illness as part of usual care. The medium effect size (d=0.58) favoring the 7Cups group relative to TAU suggests that 7Cups might enhance treatment outcomes. A fully powered trial has to be conducted to examine this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere38
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Amit Baumel, Amanda Tinkelman, Nandita Mathur, John M Kane.


  • Mhealth
  • Online
  • Peer support
  • Perinatal mood disorder
  • Postpartum depression
  • Self-help

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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