Moms: Someday your smartphone will be able to diagnose your risk for Postpartum Depression, just by analyzing your tweets.
That’s the promise of new research from Microsoft. They recently developed something called “learning software,” which could potentially be installed in apps for smartphones, tablets and computers. Then, this new software can monitor the stuff mothers post online, and serve as an early warning system for postpartum depression, or PPD, which affects about 1-in-20 women after childbirth.
How does the software work? Basically, it analyzes the language women use before and after giving birth. For example: In a recent experiment, scientists identified nearly 400 anonymous Twitter users as new mothers, just by searching through thousands of public tweets for keywords like “it’s a boy,” or “she’s here.” Then, in some cases, the software noticed a drop in positive expressions, and an increase in negative words associated with anger, anxiety, and sadness, like going from saying “I’m excited to have my baby” to “I’m dreading another night of no sleep!”
The software also noticed that some women began to use more first-person pronouns in their tweets, like “I,” “me” and “my,” which psychologists say is often an indication of the isolation some mothers feel with PPD.
In fact, researchers were able to identify women showing signs of PPD with 71-percent accuracy.
And with a few more tweaks, the software will get closer to being 100-percent accurate. And experts say that’s good news, considering that postpartum depression tends to be an under-reported condition. So, any effort to help women recognize it, and encourage them to seek help, is very welcome.