Approximately one in nine women has symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) after having a baby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Postpartum depression (PPD) is more intense and a greater potential risk for the mother and newborn than the “baby blues,” the common term for short-term worry, sadness, and tiredness many women experience post delivery. While treatable, postpartum depression often escapes diagnosis. Differentiating between baby blues and postpartum depression in the busy days immediately following birth poses a challenge.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Ammon-Pinizzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health developed an iPhone mHealth app to screen for PPD. The MGH Perinatal Depression Scale (MGHPDS) includes questionnaires about mood, sleep, anxiety, and stress. The app, which blends existing PPD screening tools, serves a purpose beyond pre-diagnosis. Women who use the app can choose to share their responses with the researchers to assist in the development of an “even shorter scale with greater specificity than what is currently available,” says Lee S. Cohen, MD, director of the Ammon-Pinizzotto Center and professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

The free mHealth app, available now on the iPhone App Store, will launch an Android version later in 2017. The Mass General researchers plan to release version 2.0 during the second half of 2018. Apps such as these have the potential to give individual patients more control and easier access to potentially helpful information and services.