What Is Postpartum Depression And Its Cause?

What is Postpartum Depression?

The complicated mixture of behavioral, emotional and physical changes which occur in some women after giving birth to a child is known as postpartum depression (PPD). As per DSM-5 (a manual used in the diagnosis of mental disorders) PPD is a type of major depression which starts within 4 weeks of delivery. It is diagnosed on the time period between the delivery and  the onset as well as the severity of the depression.

Postpartum depression is related to psychological, social and chemical changes which occur while having a baby. The term defines a variety of emotional and physical changes many new mothers face. Medication and counseling is used to treat it.

The chemical changes include a quick decrease of hormones in a female after delivery. However, the real connection between depression and this decrease is still not known. But what we know is that there is a tenfold rise of estrogen and estrogen in females during pregnancy. These are the female reproductive hormones. After delivery, there is a sudden decrease in these hormones. Within 3 days of delivery, these hormones go back to the before pregnancy levels.

With these chemical changes, the psychological changes after delivery increases the risk of depression.

“Baby blues” are experienced by most women after delivery. 1 out of the 10 mothers develops a longer-lasting and severe depression. About 1 in 1000 women experience a more serious condition known as postpartum depression!

Signs and Symptoms

Detection of symptoms can be difficult. Many women experience the below given symptoms after giving birth to a child:

  • Disturbed sleep 
  • Trouble appetite
  • Decreased libido
  • Often mood changes

In postpartum depression these accompany some other systems of major depression. These symptoms aren’t typical after childbirth. The symptoms are:

  • Not interested in the baby or no feeling of attachment
  • Frequent crying
  • Depressed mood
  • Crankiness and severe anger
  • Lack of pleasure
  • Helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Thoughts of hurting others
  • Low concentration
  • Unable to make decisions

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which are new seldom happen in the postpartum period (around 1 to 3% women). Generally, the obsessions are associated with the health of the baby or illogical fears of hurting the baby. Panic disorder may also occur. A woman can experience depression and these conditions simultaneously.

If postpartum depression is not treated, it can prove to be dangerous to the children and new moms as well. A new needs professional help when:

  • Symptoms continue even after two weeks
  • Disruption in normal functioning
  • Unable to cope-up with daily life situations
  • Thoughts about hurting themselves or the baby
  • Feeling of anxiety, panic, and fear most of the day

Causes and Risk Factors

A woman did not do anything wrong to experience postpartum depression. According t o experts, it happens due to many reasons. The reasons are different for different women. The things that can increase the chances of postpartum depression are:

  • A history of depression during pregnancy or before pregnancy
  • Age at pregnancy (younger a woman, more the chances)
  • Uncertainty regarding pregnancy
  • Number of children (more the number, more the chances)
  • History of mood disorder in family
  • Extreme stressful event
  • Giving birth to a child with special needs 
  • Giving birth to twins and triplets
  • History of premenstrual dysphoric disorder ( PMDD) or depression
  • Limited or no social support
  • Living alone
  • Marital conflict

There is no single cause of postpartum depression. The physical and emotional factors that may contribute are:

  • Hormones – The sudden decrease in estrogen and estrogen after childbirth may have a role. Some other hormones that are produced by the thyroid glands also decrease. So, you feel sluggish, tired and depressed.
  • Lack of sleep – When you’re overwhelmed and sleep deprived, you are unable to solve even minor problems.
  • Anxiety- You may experience anxiety about your capability to take care of the child.
  • Self-image – You may feel no control over your life, no sense of identity or less attractive. 

Postpartum depression when untreated can affect a woman’s ability to bond with her child but also negatively impacts the entire family.

·         Mother – Postpartum depression when untreated can continue for months or long. It can even turn into a chronic depression disorder.

·         Father – When a new mother is suffering from depression, the father may be more  prone to depression.

·         Children – Children whose mother suffers from postpartum depression are more inclined to experience problems in eating and sleeping, delays in linguistic development and cry more than normal.


The treatment for postpartum depression depends on the type and severity of the symptoms. The options available are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, psychotherapy and taking part in a support group for education and emotional support.


If you’ve had depression, tell your doctor as soon as you find out you’re pregnant or even if you are just planning for it.

·         During pregnancy

Ø  The doctor can monitor you for any kind of symptoms. Mild symptoms can be managed with the help of support groups, therapy and counseling. Some medication can also be given.

·         After childbirth

Ø  Your doctor may suggest a check up for any sort of postpartum depression. The faster you are diagnosed, the faster your treatment can begin. 

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