is a type of
that affects some women shortly after childbirth. It is not uncommon for women to experience temporary mood disorders after giving birth. If it goes on for more than a week, it is called postpartum depression.
The cause of postpartum depression is unclear. The cause may be related to sudden hormonal changes during and after delivery. Untreated thyroid conditions may also be associated with postpartum depression.
Factors that can increase your chance of developing postpartum depression include:
- Previous episode of
or postpartum depression
- Family member with depression
History of severe
- Lack of support system and/or strained relationship with partner
Central Nervous System
Hormonal changes in the brain may contribute to postpartum depression.
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Symptoms usually occur within 6 months after childbirth, though they may begin during the pregnancy and may last from a few weeks to a few months. Symptoms may range from mild depression to severe psychosis. Postpartum depression is different than baby blues, which is a mild form of depression that occurs within a few days after childbirth and lasts up to a week.
Symptoms may include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in life
- Not wanting to engage in social situations
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid mood swings
- Episodes of crying or tearfulness
- Poor concentration, memory loss, difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Feelings of irritability,
anxiety, or panic
- Fear of hurting or killing oneself or one's child
- Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
- Obsessive thoughts, especially unreasonable, repetitive fears about your child’s health and welfare
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
More serious symptoms associated with postpartum depression that may require immediate medical attention include:
- Lack of interest in your infant
- Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Loss of contact with reality
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam may be done. Your doctor may ask you to have blood tests to see if an undiagnosed physical problem, like a thyroid condition, could be contributing to your symptoms. You may be referred to a mental health professional.
Treatment for postpartum depression may include counseling, medication, or both.
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Anti-psychotic drugs—for severe cases
Talk with your doctor about potential medication side effects and how they might affect your child if you are breastfeeding.
for mothers with postpartum depression can help you see that others are struggling with and managing postpartum depression.
Since postpartum depression is aggravated by stress, life stressors should be kept to a minimum after delivery. The following may help prevent postpartum depression:
- Childbirth education classes
- Realistic expectations about the postpartum experience
- Help with childcare and household chores
- Some women feel better when the number of visitors is limited; others feel better when they have other people around
- Support to allow yourself some enjoyable personal time, such as going for a walk