Postpartum Depression

May 7, 2021

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Multiple factors come into play in regards to Postpartum Depression (PPD).  It can be a very complex combination of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that can take place in some women after giving birth.  Postpartum Depression is linked to all the emotional and physical changes a new mother experiences. 

Generally, new mothers experience postpartum depression, because of chemical changes that include a rapid drop in hormones after having a baby.  PPD can be treated with counseling and medication.

Not sure if you are experiencing postpartum depression?  Do your research.  Ask your healthcare provider.  Also know that you are not alone and there are ways to help you navigate this experience.

What are the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression?

The symptoms of postpartum depression can be hard to detect. Women may deal with the following symptoms after childbirth:

  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Feeling severely fatigued
  • Lower libido 
  • Frequent changes in mood

Often with PPD, symptoms of major depression are involved, which aren’t necessarily typical after childbirth, and may include: 

  • A lack of interest in your baby or you may feel like you’re not bonding with them
  • Crying often and/or for no reason
  • Depressed mood 
  • Feelings of severe anger and crankiness
  • You do not find pleasure in things you once did
  • Experiencing feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide 
  • Thoughts of hurting someone else
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions

About 1%-3% of women have symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) during the postpartum period. Usually, the obsessions are related to concerns about the baby’s health or irrational fears of harming the baby. Panic disorder may also happen. It is possible to have these conditions and depression at the same time.

Untreated postpartum depression can be dangerous for new moms and their children. A new mom should seek professional help when:

  • Symptoms persist beyond 2 weeks
  • Inability to function normally
  • Unable to cope with everyday situations
  • Having thoughts of harming themselves or their baby
  • Feelings of extreme anxiousness, fear, and/or panic for a large portion of the day

Causes and possible risk factors related to Postpartum Depression 

If you do have PPD, It is not anything you did wrong.  Here are some things that can raise the chances of having PPD.

  • If you have had a history of depression before becoming pregnant, or during pregnancy
  • Age at time of pregnancy (generally the younger you are, the higher the chances)
  • Ambivalence about the pregnancy
  • The number of children you have.  You may have not experienced depression in previous pregnancies but can be depressed in a later pregnancy
  • If there is a family history of mood disorders
  • Going through an extremely stressful event, like a job loss or health crisis
  • Having a child with special needs or health problems
  • Having twins or triplets
  • If you have a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Your social or family support is limited 
  • Living alone
  • Marital problems

Physical and emotional contributing factors that are associated to PPD

  • Your hormones. The dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone after you give birth can play a role. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop suddenly and make you feel tired, sluggish, and/or depressed.
  • Lack of sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. 
  • Anxiety. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. 
  • Self-image. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity, or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression can show up in different ways.  If you are not sure if you are going through postpartum or you have some of the symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.  Document what your symptoms are and share them with your healthcare provider.  There are treatment options and you don’t have to manage this alone.  You and your doctor can discuss what treatment options are best for you.