Advertisement

What causes postpartum depression?

Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

Postpartum depression can develop after the birth of any child, not just the first. Some factors that increase the risk of developing postpartum depression are:

  • A history of depression, either during pregnancy or at other times
  • Postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy
  • Having problems in the relationship with a spouse or significant other
  • A weak support system or isolation from family and friends
  • The pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted
  • High life stress, such as a sick or colicky newborn, financial troubles or family problems.
  • Physical limitations or problem symptoms after childbirth.
  • A family history of depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Previous history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

If a woman had postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy she is at high risk of having it again and counseling might be initiated during the pregnancy as a preventative measure.

Dr. Alice Domar
Psychology Specialist

Postpartum depression (PPD) can have many causes: lack of family support, previous psychiatric illness, recent stress (such as a death in the family), changes in hormone levels, irregularities in thyroid function, fatigue and a troubled relationship with one’s mother. Studies show that perfectionism can contribute to PPD.

Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Worry Less and Enjoy Life More

More About this Book

Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Worry Less and Enjoy Life More

Do you have trouble going to bed at night when there’s a mess in the kitchen? Do you think you would be happier if only you could lose weight, be a better parent, work smarter, reduce stress,...
Dr. Heather Wittenberg, PhD
Psychology Specialist

Postpartum depression can happen to anybody. New moms are told that they are supposed to “fall in love” with their newborns the moment they are placed in their arms. But for up to 15 percent of new mothers, a combination of biochemical changes and other stresses can result in real problems. Women with previous histories of depression, poor social support or other life stresses have an even higher rate of difficulties.

Dr. Deborah Raines, MSN
Nursing Specialist

The exact cause of postpartum depression (PPD) is not known. Postpartum depression seems to be related to the sudden drop in the hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone that happens after giving birth. Other hormones produced by the thyroid gland also may drop, which can lead to feeling tired, sluggish and depressed. Changes in blood volume, blood pressure, immune system and metabolism can be further stresses that contribute to fatigue and mood swings in the weeks following birth. However, while all women experience these physiologic changes, not all women develop PPD. Postpartum depression results when these physiologic effects are paired with risk factors such as previous depression, poor support from the partner, friends and family, or a high level of stress.

Continue Learning about Postpartum Depression

News: FDA Approves First Drug for Postpartum Depression
News: FDA Approves First Drug for Postpartum Depression
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first drug designed specifically for postpartum depression (PPD), a serious condition tha...
Read More
What is postpartum psychosis?
Heather Wittenberg, PhDHeather Wittenberg, PhD
A very rare but severe form of postpartum disorder, called postpartum psychosis, occurs in about...
More Answers
What is postpartum depression?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Some of the symptoms of post-pregnancy or postpartum depression include changes in sleep and energy,...
More Answers
How Marie Osmond Coped After Son’s Death
How Marie Osmond Coped After Son’s Death

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.