Adapted from: NPJ Digital Medicine, volume 6, Article number: 11 (2023)




Postpartum mental health conditions are a public health concern, affecting a large number of reproductive-age women and their families. Postpartum depression alone affects at least 14% of new mothers and their families. However, very little has been written about how advances in digital mental health can benefit women in the postpartum period, or how those advances may poorly serve this vulnerable population.


This manuscript takes a high-level view of the advances in different areas of digital mental health, including telehealth, apps, and digital phenotyping. In this comment, we explore ways in which digital interventions for postpartum mental health may help with connection to treatment, accessibility, agency, and ease of access.


We also note particular concerns for how digital postpartum mental health may encounter issues of low-quality resources, ethical considerations, and equity considerations. We provide suggestions for how to leverage the promise and avoid the pitfalls of digital mental health for postpartum women.


Key Takeaways



  • “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that symptoms of postpartum depression, the most commonly studied postpartum mental heath condition, were found in about 13% of women with a recent live birth1. Globally, that number may be even higher for postpartum depression…2.”
  • “Postpartum depression is also linked with an increase in mortality: suicide accounts for 1 in 5 deaths in postpartum women7.”
  • “Digital mental health solutions may also help with accessibility for new mothers. Telehealth has received positive attention during the pandemic16 for expanding accessibility for postpartum women, who may find that telehealth relieves barriers such as finding childcare or not wanting to take young children into a medical facility. The flexibility of apps to supplement care could make treatment more accessible than telehealth alone, particularly since 85% of women own a smartphone17. “
  • “…mental health apps can help deliver evidence-based interventions to women who are on a waiting list for a provider, augment traditional care so that fewer visits are needed, or even provide peer support or psychoeducation in place of traditional care.”
  • “…digital phenotyping may offer a novel way to make it even easier for postpartum women to access mental health care. Digital phenotyping can use passive data (such as movement data or language content) to screen for mental health conditions without someone having to actively seek help. “
  • “However, as new apps in this space continue to be rapidly developed25, providers may struggle to become proficient at navigating these resources, and postpartum women may be left to fend for themselves. We must remember that just because an intervention is convenient, or technologically innovative, doesn’t mean it works.”
  • “To navigate the history of health disparities in women, particularly women of color31, issues of autonomy in postpartum digital phenotyping will need to be handled with significant care.”
  • “Reproductive-age women, the primary stakeholders, should be involved in all stages of the development process. This can help combat the history of women’s disenfranchisement in medicine34. “
  • “…effectively expanding postpartum mental health treatment to digital platforms calls for leveraging the strengths of academia and technology together. The LAMP platform, which is currently being piloted in a postpartum population, is an excellent model for how this can work well. LAMP is an open-source platform that can be customized for different conditions, allowing innovators to move fast without reinventing the wheel.” 


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