App helps doctors screen new moms for postpartum depression

It's a pretty startling number: an estimated 1 in 7 new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. Too often, it goes undiagnosed and untreated, prolonging the pain and suffering.

A new app developed by researchers at the UMass Medical School and Worcester Polytechnic Institute is hoping to help change that. The app is aimed at helping doctors screen patients more effectively for perinatal and postpartum depression.

The app, called Lifeline4Moms, guides an OB-GYN through possible symptoms and courses of action.
Bengisu Tulu, a WPI professor, said this is challenging for some providers. "How do I communicate difficult topics with the patient? You're trying to alleviate that stress by providing them with talking points for every single option that we provide."

The starting point for this app was a screening tool developed at UMass that needed to be printed. Like the app, it focused on getting OB-GYNs educated and involved. "A lot of studies show that women prefer to get treatment in the OB setting,” said Dr. Nancy Byatt, a psychiatrist and professor at UMass Medical School, who has been a leader in advancing awareness of mental health new moms.

"They would much prefer to have the obstetric provider provide treatment than to be referred to someone else...  the best thing that a mom can do for herself, and her baby, is get the treatment that she needs, and it can help her to do that," Byatt said.

McQueen Saba, a maternal health advocate and sits on the state's Commission for Postpartum Depression, thinks starting conversations about a topic often kept in the shadows is a good place to start. "That's what we need to get better about," Saba said, "educating moms and clinicians and entire families about what to do when things go wrong, because things go wrong all the time."

Byatt said the response from obstetricians has been great and they’re happy the app does more than just flag symptoms, by providing talking points and courses of action, including medication.

Local resources for new moms and their families: postpartum depression
MCPAP for Moms
Postpartum Support International | PSI of Mass. warmline (866) 472-1897 | 24-hour support, resources (800) 944-4773 | PSI Facebook group