Post-Partum Depression

Most mothers take their child home and revel in the time they have. For some mothers, a bout of depression may set in. Postpartum depression describes a range of physical, emotional and behavioral changes that can range from mild to severe. In very rare cases, new mothers may experience postpartum psychosis – and the effects can be incapacitating.


The most common, and mildest, form of post partum depression sets in 2-3 days after childbirth. Women may feel depressed, anxious and upset. They may feel angry with their partners, their new baby and other children. They may cry suddenly, question their ability to care for their baby and have difficulty making choices. Mercifully, this form of post partum depression, often called the “baby blues,” disappears without treatment within 1-2 weeks.

Severe post partum depression, where the mother experiences intense feelings of sadness and despair that are debilitating. This form of despression usually sets in 1-3 weeks after delivery but can appear up to one year, later.

Post partum depression is caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Fatigue: Many women feel completly exhausted after giving birth, and it can take weeks to regain normal strength.  For those who have had a cesarean section, it make take even longer.
  • Changes in hormone levels: Estrogen and Progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods.
  • History of Depression: Women who have experienced depression, before, during or after pregnancy or are currently being treated for depression have an increased risk of developing post partum depression.
  • Emotional Factors: Feelings of doubt about pregnancy are common. If the pregnancy is not planned or wanted, it can affect how a woman feels about her pregnancy and baby. Even when the pregnancy is planned, it can take a long time to adjust to the idea of having a baby. Parents of babies who are sick or need to stay in the hospital may experience feelings of anger, sadness or guilt. These emotions can affect a woman’s self-esteem.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Lack of support from others and stressful life events such as death of a loved one, family illness, a move to a new city can increase the risk of post partum depression.

If you believe you are suffering from post partum depression or family members are suggesting that you are, it’s important to reach out to your health care provider as soon as possible. Do not wait until your post partum check up.

Postpartum depression is treated much like other types of depression. The most common treatments for depression are antidepressant medication, psychotherapy, and participation in a support group, or a combination of these treatments.

Psychodynamic therapies, which are sometimes used to treat depressed persons, focus on resolving the patient’s conflicted feelings. These therapies are often reserved until the depressive symptoms are significantly improved. In general, severe depressive illnesses, particularly those that are recurrent, will require medication along with, or preceding, psychotherapy for the best outcome.

Do you know the #1 Complication of pregnancy and childbirth? Anxiety and Depression Fact Sheet

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