Perinatal & Postpartum Depression

For many mothers, the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is often followed by sadness, fear, anxiety, and difficulty making decisions. Many women have difficulty finding the energy to care for themselves, their infants, and their families. Some even have feelings about harming themselves and their children. These may be symptoms of depression.

Risk Factors of Perinatal & Postpartum Depression​

Some women are more at risk for depression during and after pregnancy: 

  • A mother’s personal history of depression or another mental illness is the largest overall risk factor 

  • A family history of depression or another mental illness

  • A lack of support from family and friends

  • Depression or mental illness in the woman’s partner

  • Anxiety or negative feelings about the pregnancy

  • Problems with a previous pregnancy or birth

  • Marriage or money problems

  • Stressful life events

  • Pregnancy at a young age

  • Substance use disorders

  • Family violence

  • Chronic illness

The risk is also higher with multiple births, preterm birth, and congenital or acquired physical or neurodevelopmental deficits in the infant. Stressful transitions, such as returning to work, may also be a risk factor.

Minority, immigrant, and refugee populations are especially at risk, because they face the added stress of adjusting to and learning to function in a new environment without as much local family support and with added financial concerns or cultural barriers.

We are very pleased to announce the release of the MGH Perinatal Depression Scale available free of charge on the App Store (https://appsto.re/us/-3X4jb.i). The MGHPDS smartphone app includes digital versions of perinatal depression screening tools including the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS) as well as other instruments which measure relevant symptoms associated with peripartum psychiatric illness: sleep disturbance, anxiety and perceived stress.

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 (womensmentalhealth.org) with the ultimate goal of developing a short version of the scale with greater specificity than what is currently available. 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.

We welcome feedback and questions from users at mghpdsapp@womensmentalhealth.org.