A new research study has found that using an artificially intelligent AI chatbot can offer significant emotional and mental support to pre- and postnatal women and help to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.

The study, published in Frontiers in Global Women’s Health, looked at mothers who were using the AI mental health app Wysa. It found that mothers who were highly engaged with the app saw a 12.7% reduction in depressive symptoms (from 15.8 to 13.8 measured on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9).

Many who were highly engaged transitioned from ‘moderately severe depression’ to ‘moderate depression’ as a result of using the AI chatbot.

Those in the study interacted with the AI chatbot mainly about their emotions and stressors and weren’t seeking maternal health support specifically. Through the app, they were able to express their concerns, hopes, need for support, victories and gratitude as well as reframe their thoughts.

Parenthood, especially during the maternal period, is a considerable challenge to both mental and physical health. In the UK, between 10-20% of women face perinatal mental health issues. The study underlines how valuable AI chatbots could be in enhancing health information systems and helping with the early detection of postnatal depression, allowing for intervention.

Becky Inkster, affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge said: “These findings are very encouraging, especially given that our study demonstrated that conversational AI support helped reduce depressive symptoms across a wide range of maternal events.”

Wysa is already being integrated into the NHS in a number of different areas across the country. In September last year the solution was rolled out to teenagers via Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow Mind.

While a few months ago staff in CAMHS services at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) and St Andrew’s Healthcare (STAH) gained access to Wysa’s AI mental health app to support their wellbeing and mental health.