July 13, 2024

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression – also known as PPD – is a condition that experts believe affects as many as twenty five percent of all women who have given birth. Symptoms of postpartum depression include mood swings, disturbances in sleep and eating patterns, anxiety, irritability, lack of energy and an inability to bond with baby. Although symptoms usually occur soon after childbirth, postpartum depression can occur for as long as a year after delivery.

Postpartum depression is not the same thing and should not be confused with the baby blues that many women suffer a few days after giving birth. There is a big distinction between the two.

The baby blues usually is the result of hormonal changes a couple of days after birth and usually go away after 24-48 hours when the mother’s body adjusts to the change in hormone levels that naturally occurs after delivery.

Postpartum depression lasts much longer, is more severe and, if not treated, can lead to unwanted and potentially dire consequences for both the mother and infant.

Causes of Postpartum Depression

Although the exact cause or causes of postpartum depression are unknown, researchers believe that this condition can be brought on due to one or more of the following factors:

Physical Reasons

On a physical level, postpartum depression may be caused by fluctuating hormones. During pregnancy, estrogen levels skyrocket, then plummet after childbirth. This sudden change in hormone levels can bring on anxiety, mood swings, irritability and insomnia.

Emotional Factors

Emotional factors can also play a part in postpartum depression. The demands of caring for a newborn can often be overwhelming, and issues like sleep deprivation and a lack of personal time can cause major disturbances in thoughts and emotions.

Social Factors

Socially, postpartum depression is higher in women with little social support and those in lower socioeconomic brackets. A lack of support combined with worries over financial issues can lead to depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. Single parenthood is another social factor of postpartum depression. The pressure of caring for a baby oneself can sometimes be overwhelming, and lead may lead to feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and inadequacy.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Symptoms of postpartum depression vary from woman to woman but some of the most common symptoms of this condition include but aren’t limited to the following:

• Sleep and eating disturbances
• Decreased sex drive
• Low energy
• Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
• Guilt
• Increased anxiety or panic attacks
• Loss of concentration
• Agitation or irritability
• Tearfulness
• Thoughts of death or suicide
• Negative feelings toward the baby
• Lack of pleasure or interest in most activities
• Difficulty concentrating
• Changes in appetite or eating habits
• Anger
• Lack of interest in the baby
• Thoughts of hurting the baby
• A strong sense of failure or inadequacy

If a woman has at least some of these symptoms for at least two weeks or longer, it is likely she may have postpartum depression.

If you are in a postpartum depressed state and have thoughts of harming yourself or hurting your baby GET HELP IMMEDIATELY. Call 911 or your doctor right away! It is critically important that you get help IMMEDIATELY for yourself and your baby.

Professional help is available regardless of your circumstances and treatment CAN help you feel better and think differently. Do NOT put yourself or your child at risk because of this depression.

The national US suicide hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Risk Factors

While it is unknown why some women experience postpartum depression and others do not, there are several risk factors associated with the condition, such as a history of depression or other psychological issues, prenatal depression, postpartum depression with a previous pregnancy, past or current substance abuse, three or more previous pregnancies, smoking, low socioeconomic status, single motherhood, unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, poor prenatal care and lack of social and emotional support.

Some studies also suggest that mothers who bottle-feed instead of breastfeeding are at higher risk for postpartum depression.

While a woman is at greater risk of postpartum depression if she is poor, young, single and has some of the other risk factors mentioned, it should be noted that postpartum depression happens to women from all walks of life. Many famous people have experienced postpartum depression.

postpartum depression - reese witherspoon

Famous People with Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression happens to women of all socio-economic levels. Here are just a few of the celebrities who are reported to have battled this disorder:


  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Brooke Shields
  • Gwen Stefani
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Courtney Cox
  • Marie Osmond
  • Amanda Peet
  • Bryce Dallas Howard

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Postpartum depression is usually treated in a number of ways.


Once a diagnosis has been made, antidepressants may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms. Since each person is different and may have different reactions to medications, several drugs may be administered in succession until the right medication is found for effective management of this disorder. Aside from antidepressants, other typical postpartum depression medications include hormone therapy and mood stabilizers.


Counseling is also an important part of postpartum depression treatment. Counseling can include one-on-one therapy with a professional therapist or group therapy, and can greatly help in dealing with the symptoms of postpartum depression. In therapy, individuals will learn coping skills for dealing with their depression symptoms, as well as gain support from a counselor or members of a group.

Self Help Remedies

Some cases of postpartum depression aren’t severe enough to warrant medication or therapy, but the depressive state may still have a negative impact on an individual’s life. For these people, self-help remedies may have a significant benefit on symptoms of postpartum depression.

A few tips for dealing with mild postpartum depression include the following:

1. Make an effort to maintain relationships with friends and family.

Being social can greatly help relieve some of the stress and anxiety associated with postpartum depression.

2. Eat a balanced diet.

Some studies show that postpartum depression is related to poor nutrition; therefore, eating healthy, balanced meals can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Over-processed, prepackaged foods or those high in fat, sodium and complex carbohydrates can exacerbate symptoms of depression by increasing blood pressure, fatigue and sluggishness.

3. Get plenty of exercise.

Exercise has been shown to help all types of depression, including postpartum. Working out increases levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which helps to increase mood and energy. In addition, exercise can lend to better quality of sleep and greater overall health. For moms who have just given birth, low-impact workouts, such as walking, swimming or yoga, are the best choice.

4. Get out of the house.

Even if it’s for a short time, it’s important to get dressed and get outside at least once a day. Simple outings, such as a walk around the block or a trip to the park, can help increase mood and energy levels.

5. Ask for help.

It’s important for new parents to understand that there is no shame in asking for help. Caring for a newborn is an enormous responsibility, and it’s understandable that many people become overwhelmed in their new role as parent. Asking for help from a spouse, friend or family member can provide enormous relief for new parents.

6. Join a support group.

Advice and stories from other parents with postpartum depression can be of great benefit. Here, parents can discuss ways to overcome their postpartum depression, share tips and success stories and lend emotional support to one another.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum depression is often confused with postpartum psychosis. Although similar in nature to postpartum depression, and usually caused by the same factors, postpartum psychosis symptoms are typically much more severe than those of PPD.

Individuals suffering from postpartum psychosis may experience the same feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness and depression, but may also suffer from delusions, hallucinations and paranoia.

Postpartum psychosis can be extremely dangerous. Sufferers of this condition have the potential to harm themselves , their baby or others, and should seek treatment as soon as symptoms become apparent. Treatment for postpartum psychosis can involve the use of antipsychotic and mood stabilizing drugs, as well as counseling or therapy.

postpartum depression aka postnatal depressionSocial Stigma

Postpartum depression is a real disease. Left untreated, symptoms can intensify and become more severe in nature. Unfortunately, postpartum depression carries a stigma that makes new parents ashamed to admit their symptoms and seek treatment.

However, seeking treatment as soon as possible is essential in dealing with this condition. The sooner treatment is sought, the sooner the symptoms of postpartum depression can be alleviated.

If you or a loved one has postpartum depression symptoms that have lasted for at least two weeks – GET HELP IMMEDIATELY for your sake and the sake of your new baby.

Consequences of Untreated Postpartum Depression

If a new mother gets help for postpartum depression then the consequences to herself and baby will most likely not be long term; however, left untreated, postpartum depression can have dire consequences for both mother and child.

Without proper treatment, postpartum depression can last for a year or more and lead to the following:

Negative impact on the bond between the mother and child.

This is often due to the mother being inconsistent with her care of the child due to feeling unconnected with him or her. Sometimes the mom may be distant from the child but other times feels guilty about being distant and try to overwhelm the child with care.

Lack of affection for the child which can cause consequences for the child’s development.

A mother with postpartum depression usually isn’t as outwardly affectionate or as verbally friendly with her child as a mom who isn’t depressed. She he can become irritated much quicker with the child. This can lead to the child feeling insecure, create difficulties in his or her interpersonal relationships, and negatively impact the child’s social development.

Possible Issues for the Child Later in Life

Although it isn’t proven with scientific certainty or research study, some experts believe that a child whose mother did not treat her postpartum depression is more likely to develop depression when he or she becomes an adult. It is also believed to negatively affect mother-child communication when the child is older.

Because untreated postpartum depression can have such a negative impact on a mother and her child for years to come the seriousness of this condition and the importance of getting help cannot be overstated. Treatment for postpartum depression is available and can be successful. It is critically important for a woman who may be suffering from this condition to get help for her sake and for the sake of her child.

Postpartum Depression in Men

Although rare, men can suffer from postpartum depression. In fact, some studies suggest that up to one in ten males experience some form of depression after their partners give birth. Men’s postpartum depression – also known as MPPD – produces symptoms similar to postpartum depression in women, including an overwhelming sense of sadness and/or hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue and feelings of guilt, inadequacy or shame.

Much like women with postpartum depression, men who suffer from this condition are likely to be embarrassed by their feelings, and may be reluctant to seek help for their symptoms. In fact, due to the nature of postpartum depression, and that it is typically known as a female issue, men are even less likely than women to seek treatment. When treatment is sought, methods are similar to those of treatment for postpartum depression in women.


Postpartum is a medical condition that can have severe consequences if not treated. It isn’t the baby blues and isn’t something a woman can get out of on her own unless it’s very mild. Help is available from a variety of sources and postpartum depression can be successfully treated. Contact your doctor, gynecologist or obstetrician for more information and assistance.

It is very important that a woman with postpartum depression seek help and get treatment. She can feel better and have a better relationship with her baby. Postpartum depression should not be allowed to rob either mother or child from the great relationship and bond that occurs between a mother and her child.


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