10 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Depression

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10 Things You Should Know About Postpartum Depression

Ten Things You Should Know About Postpartum Depression
By Andrea Posey, BSW, BSN student

            Having a baby can be a joyous and exciting time in a mother’s life, but for many it can also bring on anxiety, sadness and depression.  Most women experience the “baby blues” at some point after childbirth, with symptoms that usually subside within a few days.  Postpartum depression, however, is a more serious, clinical condition that needs prompt medical attention and monitoring. With accurate diagnosis and support measures in place, symptoms can be drastically reduced.

  1.  Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth and affects 15-20% of postpartum women. 
  2. Symptoms of postpartum depression can occur anytime within in the first year after having a baby. Often symptoms begin 1-3 weeks after delivery. These symptoms often include:  sadness, anxiety, anger, irritability, guilt, changes in eating and/or sleeping habits, feelings of hopelessness, trouble concentrating, lack of interest in caring for infant, and sometimes, thoughts of harming oneself or one’s child.
  3. Postpartum depression has no one definitive cause.  A number of factors can contribute to the likelihood of becoming seriously depressed after childbirth.  Physical changes can include rapidly changing hormone levels.  Estrogen and Progesterone levels sharply decrease after childbirth, which can contribute to mood changes.  Sometimes, changes in brain chemistry and/or decreasing thyroid hormone levels can produce depression-like symptoms.
  4. Other risk factors include:  a history of depression, inadequate support, complications of pregnancy or breastfeeding, mothers of multiples, those who have undergone infertility treatments, women with diabetes, and those that have had premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder in the past, and women with an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit.  Postpartum depression can also affect those that have had a recent, major life change.  However, a woman may have none of these risk factors.
  5. Treatment for postpartum depression is similar to treatment for other depressive conditions. Usually a combination of anti-depressants (many are safe while breastfeeding) and psychotherapy are recommended.  Support groups and adequate support at home can be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms.
  6. Preventive measures can reduce the likelihood of having postpartum depression. Women with a history of depression should talk with their doctors during pregnancy to set up a plan of care for immediately after delivery.  Seeking out emotional and social support during pregnancy, and setting up adequate help with the new baby is important.
  7. Lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol, can reduce the risk of postpartum depression.  In addition, setting realistic expectations, getting adequate sleep, making time for oneself, and avoiding isolation can make a substantial difference.
  8. If untreated, postpartum depression can last for a year or longer and can lead to chronic depressive disorder.  It can interfere with family life and bonding with baby.  It has been found that children of mothers with untreated depression are more likely to have behavioral problems, sleeping/eating difficulties, and hyperactivity.  Language development may also be delayed.
  9.  Although not often documented or diagnosed, men can also suffer from depression during the postnatal period, and may require diagnosis and treatment. These same feelings can affect a new father, and support should be sought out.
  10. Postpartum depression is a very real disease that needs prompt medical attention.  New parents should not feel shame or guilt for experiencing these feelings after having a baby and should promptly seek out emotional support and proper medical care.


Matthey,S., Barnett, B., Ungerer, J., Waters, B., Paternal and maternal depressed mood during transition to parenthood. Nov 2000. Journal of Affective Disorders. 22 March 2011.

Postpartum depression. 4 Sept 2010. Pub Med Health.  22 March 2011.

Postpartum Depression. Jan 2009. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 25 March 2011.

Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum. 2010. Postpartum Support International. 22 March 2011.

Insel, Thomas. 28 Oct 2010. Spotlight on Postpartum Depression. National Institute on Mental Health. 25 March 2011.

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