Postpartum Depression: Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, And More.

The Postpartum depression occurs in women shortly after giving birth, where symptoms include sadness and hopelessness, counseling and antidepressants are treatment options.

As a new mother you face many challenges getting used to life with a newborn, you will also likely have to deal with lack of sleep, new responsibilities, or even chest pain if you are breastfeeding. This is a severe form of clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth.

What is postpartum depression?

Also called postnatal depression, it is a type of mood disorder associated with childbirth, which can affect both sexes. It is the type of depression that you can have after having a baby, it can start at any time during your baby’s first year, but it is more common for it to begin to feel its effects during the first 3 weeks after birth.

If you have it, you may feel sad, hopeless, and guilty because you may not feel like bonding with or caring for your baby. Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect new mothers, it can affect you even if you didn’t have it when your other children were born.

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish clinical depression from the normal stress and burnout of new parenthood, but if your feelings of sadness or despair are so powerful that you are preventing you from doing your daily tasks, such as taking care of yourself and others, you may have this kind of depression.

About 10 percent of new mothers develop it, but some experts believe the figure is even higher because many women do not seek treatment. If you are having difficulties, see your healthcare provider right away for a mental health evaluation, if your provider thinks you have depression at any time after giving birth, they may refer you to a counselor and prescribe antidepressant medications, if needed, or you are referred to a psychiatrist for treatment, whether you are diagnosed with depression before, during, or after pregnancy, getting treatment is important.

Symptoms of postpartum depression

The symptoms and depression that occur before or during pregnancy are the same, you could have such depression if you experience five or more of the following symptoms almost every day, for most of the day, for at least two consecutive weeks:


  • Persistent sadness, anxiety, or “empty” mood.
  • Severe mood swings
  • Frustration, irritability, restlessness, anger.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
  • Guilt, shame, worthlessness.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Numbness, emptiness.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Inability to be comforted.
  • Problems bonding with and caring for the baby.


  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities.
  • Low or no energy.
  • Low libido
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue, decreased energy and motivation .
  • Poor self-care.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep.


  • Decreased ability to make decisions and think clearly.
  • Lack of concentration and poor memory .
  • Fear that you will not be able to take care of the baby or fear of the baby.
  • Worrying about hurting yourself, baby, or partner.

Causes of postpartum depression

The cause is not well understood, hormonal changes, genetics and major life events have been hypothesized as potential causes. Evidence suggests that hormonal changes may play a role, those that have been studied include estrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormone, testosterone, corticotropin-releasing hormone, and cortisol.

Fathers, who are not experiencing profound hormonal changes, may also have postpartum depression, the cause may be different in men.

The profound lifestyle changes brought about by caring for the baby are also frequently assumed to cause this depression, however there is little evidence to support this hypothesis. Mothers who have had several previous children without suffering it can, nevertheless, suffer it with their last child. Despite the biological and psychosocial changes that can accompany pregnancy and the postpartum period, most women go undiagnosed.


Your hormone levels rise when you are pregnant, after your baby is born, they drop suddenly. This rapid change can trigger depression in some women, (if you ever feel grumpy before having your period, you already know how hormones can affect you).

History of depression

If you have had depression before, or it runs in your family, you are more likely to have postpartum depression.

Stress and problems

If you didn’t want to be pregnant, or if your partner and family aren’t helping you care for your baby, you’re more likely to become depressed as a new mother. The condition is also more common among women with money problems, drug or alcohol problems, or other major sources of stress.

Very young women who are unprepared to care for or support a baby are also at risk.

Am I at risk for postpartum depression?

Every new mom is at risk of developing it, but some women are at higher risk. The strongest predictors are:

  • Depression or anxiety during pregnancy.
  • Stressful life events during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth.
  • Traumatic birth experience.
  • Premature delivery
  • A baby in need of neonatal intensive care.
  • Lack of social support.
  • Previous history of depression.
  • Breastfeeding problems.

Other risk factors include:

  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
  • A baby with birth defects or other medical problems.
  • Multiple babies (such as twins or triplets).
  • Family history of psychiatric problems.
  • To be single.
  • Low socioeconomic status or financial instability.
  • Domestic violence
  • Unemployment.
  • Many medical appointments during pregnancy.
  • Pregestational or gestational diabetes.

Remember that these risk factors do not actually cause depression. Many women with multiple risk factors never experience clinical depression or anxiety, while others with only one risk factor (or even none) may end up with a diagnosis of postpartum depression.

How is postpartum depression treated?

Treatment is the same as for depression that occurs before or during pregnancy, if you have mild symptoms, your provider may recommend watchful waiting with regular check-ins, if your symptoms are more severe, your provider may recommend talk therapy, antidepressant medications or both.

The talk therapy , also called counseling or psychotherapy , can be customized with your therapist or group with other women who are going through a similar experience in family therapy or couple, a therapist works with you and your partner or relatives.

The antidepressants balance the chemicals in the brain that regulate mood. Talk to your provider about the different types of antidepressants; some are combined for best results, you will probably start to feel better after taking the medicine for three to four weeks.

Antidepressants can cause side effects, but most will resolve after a short time. If you experience side effects that interfere with your daily life, or if your depression worsens, tell your provider right away.

Some women have this very severe depression that does not respond to talk therapy or medicine. In this case, a healthcare provider may suggest electroconvulsive therapy. In this treatment, small electrical currents pass through the brain while the patient is under general anesthesia, experts believe that this electrical stimulation causes chemical changes in the brain that alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Why is it important to seek treatment?

Untreated depression can be lonely, confusing, and even scary if your condition worsens – the good news is that it’s very treatable, so you don’t have to feel this way.

Treatment provides the help you need to avoid slipping into a deep depression that is harder to get out of. Also, having a therapist and healthcare provider who understands your condition can help you feel less alone and feel better means you can bond more easily with your baby and be able to take better care of her.

If your provider recommended watchful waiting, it is important that you continue to attend regular appointments while you are experiencing symptoms, so that you can begin talk therapy or medication if you begin to feel worse.

How to deal with postpartum depression?

Besides getting professional help, here are some ways to take care of yourself when it comes to it:

Be good to yourself

Make sure you meet your basic needs – try to sleep and eat well, and do your best not to feel guilty. Having this depression does not mean that you are a bad mother or that you do not love your child, after starting treatment, these feelings of guilt and despair should start to fade.

Don’t demand too much of yourself

If you have clinical depression or anxiety, it can be difficult enough to get out of bed and face the day, be kind to yourself and take things one at a time.

Ask for help

Part of being a good mother is knowing when to ask for help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it during this difficult time, let your partner know about different ways to help, whether it’s taking care of the baby, doing housework, or going with you to appointments with the doctor, relatives, or close friends can also help.

Share your feelings

Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and talk about what’s going on, call a friendly friend, join a mothers group or support group, or chat with mothers about postpartum depression in the community. You might be surprised how many women are experiencing similar feelings.


Taking care of your physical self can sometimes help you feel better inside, have your partner or a friend watch over your baby so they can take a relaxing shower or bath, put on makeup if you usually wear it, take a shopping trip just to yourself and buy something new for your post-baby wardrobe, wear a favorite outfit on especially tough days to give yourself a boost.

Get some rest

The rigors of caring for a newborn 24/7 can leave you exhausted. Unfortunately, mothers with postpartum disorders often cannot sleep when they want to, but it is still important to take breaks to rest, even if you are just reading a magazine or watching TV, it is also useful to take 10 minute naps.

Prevention of postpartum depression

A 2013 Cochrane review found evidence that postpartum psychosocial or psychological intervention helped reduce the risk of postnatal depression, these interventions included home visits, peer support by phone, and interpersonal psychotherapy. Support is an important aspect of prevention, as depressed mothers commonly report that their feelings of depression were caused by ‘lack of support’ and ‘feeling isolated’.

In couples, according to a 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis, emotional closeness and global partner support protect against perinatal depression and anxiety. Additional factors such as communication between the partner and satisfaction with the relationship have a protective effect against anxiety alone.

An important part of prevention is informed about risk factors, the medical community can play a key role in the identification and treatment of postpartum depression. Women should be screened by their doctor to determine their risk of contracting it, and proper exercise and nutrition appear to play a role in preventing depression and depressed mood in general.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.