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What is postpartum depression?
“Postpartum” means the time after childbirth. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect new parents. It is most commonly associated with women, but men can also experience this type of depression. Parents with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult to complete daily care activities for themselves or others.
Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors.
For women, hormonal changes may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression. After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop. This leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings.
In addition, many mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you're not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Am I at risk?
Any new parent can experience postpartum depression and it can develop after the birth of any child, not just the first. However, your risk increases if:
- You have a history of depression, either during pregnancy or at other times
- You have bipolar disorder
- You had postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy
- You have family members who've had depression or other mood disorders
- You've experienced stressful events during the past year, such as pregnancy complications, illness or job loss
- Your baby has health problems or other special needs
- You have twins, triplets or other multiple births
- You have difficulty breastfeeding
- You're having problems in your relationship with your spouse or significant other
- You have a weak support system
- You have financial problems
- The pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted
Postpartum Depression At A Glance
- Postpartum depression is a common complication and is not your fault. It is a medical condition that needs treatment to get better
- It is estimated that postpartum depression affects approximately 10% - 20% of women globally
- Half of men who have a partner with postpartum depression will go on to develop depression themselves