One in seven new mothers struggle with clinical levels of persistent anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other emotions. Because these experiences do not match the way motherhood is often portrayed in the media and in society, stigma can keep people who give birth from seeking help for how they are feeling or how they are struggling to cope.
“I was always a grin-and-bear-it type of person, but when I was pregnant with my first baby, I suffered anxiety unlike anything I had ever experienced,” said Anne Wanlund, CEO of Canopie. "I quickly realized that I had no coping strategies for dealing with it. I tried meditation, but it just didn’t work for me. When I went in for my son’s well visit, they screened me for postpartum depression, and everything sort of clicked for me."
Wanlund’s background in public health and personal experience gave her important insight into this hidden and costly problem, and she decided to create Canopie, with the support of perinatal mental health experts, healthcare operators, and primary care physicians.
They work to preempt maternal mental health conditions during pregnancy, offering prevention treatment to mothers at elevated risk, and universal, effective support to everyone. Canopie’s programs are accessible 24/7, in English and Spanish, using accessible, non-stigmatizing language and remote embedded monitoring.
In their research, Canopie found that about 70% of new mothers struggle with their mental health and that 85% of those will never receive any care or treatment for it. More than half of the expecting mothers who come through their program are experiencing elevated levels of depression and/or anxiety.
In March 2021, as a lean start-up business, they launched the first version of their app using a combination of clinical research-based techniques that they adapted with the help of hundreds of interviews and surveys they conducted with moms.
Since winning an IGNITE Startup Grant in 2022, she has established the headquarters at Brickyard CoWork in Prince William County and have been making improvements and launching more advanced iterations of the app, including translation into Spanish.
IGNITE Startup Grants are offered to high-growth companies who are already located here or are looking to locate in Prince William County. Grants are offered at the 25K, 50K, and 100K levels depending on the applicant’s qualifications. Learn more at ignite.pwcded.org!
They have also begun screening for additional risk factors using social determinants of health (SDoH) data and stratifying expecting moms into risk categories, based on thousands of user profiles. Since they launched their app, they have focused on relationships with stakeholders who can help them achieve their goal of having mental health care become a standard part of care for new mothers. At the moment, mothers are connected to Canopie primarily through their insurance or other care provision, at discharge from the hospital, and during well-child visits.
"Early on, we learned this truth: mothers become invisible in the healthcare industry," says Wanlund. "Their care often ends up coming last. We aim to change that, by removing the stigma, by putting care at their fingertips, and by getting more doctors to realize they can help women better care for themselves if they have the tools."
Their intervention is seeing results, having reached thousands of expecting and new mothers already. Eighty percent of users who complete their program report a clinically significant improvement in mood.
Moving forward from here, Canopie intends to build out their suite of services and better predict what kind of care will work best for different users.