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Postpartum Depression (cont.)

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What are causes and risk factors for postpartum depression?

Similar to many other mental health conditions, there is thought to be a genetic vulnerability to developing postpartum depression.

Rapid changes in the levels of reproductive hormones that occur during pregnancy and after delivery are thought to be biological factors in the development of this condition. People with any history of depression or anxiety prior to the pregnancy are at risk for developing depression during the pregnancy or soon after delivery. Interestingly, men are also known to experience changes in a number of hormones during the peripartum period that can contribute to the development of PPD. Also, the stress of any medical complications as a result of the pregnancy or delivery, as well as the stress that is inherent in caring for a newborn are considerable factors.

Further risk factors for developing postpartum depression include low self-esteem, low socioeconomic status, a lack of having social support before and after the birth of the baby, and marital problems, including any history of intimate partner violence.

What are postpartum depression symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of postpartum depression begin either during pregnancy or within four weeks after having a baby and include the following:

  • Feelings of profound sadness, emptiness, emotional numbness, irritability, or anger.
  • Feelings of irritability or anger
  • A tendency to withdraw from relationships with family, friends, or from activities that are usually pleasurable for the PPD sufferer
  • Constant fatigue or tiredness, difficulty sleeping, overeating, or loss of appetite
  • A strong sense of failure or inadequacy
  • Intense concern and anxiety about the baby or a lack of interest in the baby
  • Thoughts about suicide or fears of harming the baby

Postpartum psychosis occurs much more rarely and is thought to be a severe form of postpartum depression. Symptoms of that disorder include the following:

  • Delusions (false beliefs)
  • Hallucinations (for example, hearing voices or seeing things that are not real)
  • Thoughts of harming the baby
  • Severe depressive symptoms
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/23/2017


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