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Predicting women with depressive symptoms postpartum with machine learning methods

  • Andersson, Sam1
  • Bathula, Deepti R.2
  • Iliadis, Stavros I.1
  • Walter, Martin3, 4, 5
  • Skalkidou, Alkistis1
  • 1 Uppsala University, Uppsala, 751 85, Sweden , Uppsala (Sweden)
  • 2 Indian Institute of Technology Ropar, Rupnagar, Punjab, 140001, India , Rupnagar (India)
  • 3 University Hospital Jena, Jena, Germany , Jena (Germany)
  • 4 Eberhardt Karls University, Tübingen, Germany , Tübingen (Germany)
  • 5 Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany , Magdeburg (Germany)
Published Article
Scientific Reports
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Apr 12, 2021
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-86368-y
Springer Nature


Postpartum depression (PPD) is a detrimental health condition that affects 12% of new mothers. Despite negative effects on mothers’ and children’s health, many women do not receive adequate care. Preventive interventions are cost-efficient among high-risk women, but our ability to identify these is poor. We leveraged the power of clinical, demographic, and psychometric data to assess if machine learning methods can make accurate predictions of postpartum depression. Data were obtained from a population-based prospective cohort study in Uppsala, Sweden, collected between 2009 and 2018 (BASIC study, n = 4313). Sub-analyses among women without previous depression were performed. The extremely randomized trees method provided robust performance with highest accuracy and well-balanced sensitivity and specificity (accuracy 73%, sensitivity 72%, specificity 75%, positive predictive value 33%, negative predictive value 94%, area under the curve 81%). Among women without earlier mental health issues, the accuracy was 64%. The variables setting women at most risk for PPD were depression and anxiety during pregnancy, as well as variables related to resilience and personality. Future clinical models that could be implemented directly after delivery might consider including these variables in order to identify women at high risk for postpartum depression to facilitate individualized follow-up and cost-effectiveness.

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