Definition

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression. It affects some women shortly after childbirth. It's common for women to have short term mood problems after giving birth. If it goes on for more than 2 weeks, it is called PPD.

Causes

The cause of PPD is unclear. The cause may be related to sudden hormonal changes during and after delivery.

Risk Factors

Your chances of PPD are higher for:

  • A prior history of depression or PPD
  • A prior history of anxiety disorders
  • A family history of mood disorders
  • Having stress or conflict at home or with your partner
  • Having problems breastfeeding your baby
Central Nervous System
Female brain nerves torso
Hormonal changes in the brain may contribute to postpartum depression.
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Symptoms

Symptoms mainly happen within 6 months after childbirth. Sometimes, they may start during pregnancy. It may last for a few weeks to a few months. PPD ranges from mild to severe psychosis.

The most common are:

  • Feelings of irritability, anxiety, or panic
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Change in weight or hunger
  • Obsessive, unreasonable thoughts
  • Repetitive fears about your child’s health and welfare
  • Poor concentration, memory loss, difficulty making decisions
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of energy or motivation

Serious symptoms may need care right away:

  • Lack of interest in your infant
  • Fear of hurting or killing yourself or your child
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Loss of contact with reality

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers may point to PPD. Certain symptoms must be present for at least 2 weeks nearly every day. You may have a physical exam and blood tests. Blood test can rule out other causes such as thyroid problems.

Treatment

PPD is treated with one or both of the following:

  • Medicines to ease depression, anxiety, or psychosis.
  • Counseling may be alone or with a group. Support groups with other mothers with the same problems will help you find ways to cope with your feelings.

Prevention

To help lower your chances of PPD:

  • Talk to your doctor about a plan or medicines if you have a prior history of depression.
  • Talk to a counselor before you have your baby.
  • Get support from your partner or other people around you.
  • Get regular exercise during pregnancy.
  • Find ways to relax and lessen stress.
  • Plan to breastfeed your baby.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 06/2018 -
  • Update Date: 08/28/2018 -