Help for Postpartum Depression in an App?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, approximately one in nine women will experience postpartum depression. Perhaps a more worrisome statistic: per Postpartum Progress, only about 15 percent of those women ever receive professional treatment. But a new app might be able to both help identify women suffering from postpartum depression and direct them toward treatment. As mHealth Intelligence and others first reported, the team at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Ammon-Pinizzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health has developed an iPhone app designed for easy screening. “As screening for perinatal depression becomes increasingly common across the country and globally, easy to use screening tools including digital versions which can be readily used on smartphones and other digital devices may lead to even more widespread and accurate screening of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and hopefully improved clinical outcomes for patients,” said MGH’s Dr. Lee Cohen in a blog post accompanying the app’s release.

The MGH Perinatal Depression Scale app, available for free download, uses digital versions of several standard clinical screening tools. These include the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is a 10-item multiple-choice questionnaire focusing on new mothers’ mental health. Sample metrics include “sleep disturbance, anxiety, and perceived stress.” Along with the screening tools, the app seeks to connect users to resources designed to help them manage postpartum depression and mental health generally; MGH is also working to expand these resources for later versions of the app.

Per Cohen, who serves as its director, the Ammon-Pinizzotto Center team is also seeking app users’ help in improving the tool—and postpartum depression screening in general—for future patients. “Those who download the app and who complete the included instruments may also consent to share their scores on these instruments with researchers at the Center for Women’s Mental Health with the ultimate goal of developing a short version of the scale with greater specificity than what is currently available,” he noted in the blog post. In an interview with MobiHealthNews, Cohen added that he hoped user data would help improve screening accuracy; currently, false positives, for example, are common. Ultimately, “our hope is that we will have both a shorter instrument and a more specific instrument,” he explained.

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the new MGH postpartum depression screening app.

Click here to read the MobiHealthNews article on the new MGH postpartum depression screening app.

Click here to read the MGH blog post on the new app.


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