Postpartum depression (PPD) refers to mood problems that happen up to 1 year after giving birth. Short-term mood problems are common after giving birth. PDD is when severe problems last for more than 2 weeks.
The exact cause is not known. It may be due to sudden hormonal changes during and after delivery.
The risk of this problem is higher in those with:
- A prior history of depression or PPD
- A prior history of anxiety disorders
- A family history of mood disorders
- Stress or conflict at home or with a partner
- Problems breastfeeding
Hormonal changes in the brain may contribute to postpartum depression.
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Problems may be:
- Feelings of irritability, worry, 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 focus, memory loss, and problems making decisions
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Lack of energy or motivation
More severe problems may be:
- Lack of interest in your infant
- Fear of hurting or killing yourself or your child
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Sensing or believing things that are not real
- Loss of contact with reality
Contact doctor if you or a loved one is having severe problems. Treatment can help.
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis may be made in a person who has had certain symptoms every day for at least 2 weeks.
More tests may be done to rule out other causes of depression, such as thyroid problems.
Untreated postpartum depression hurts your quality of life. It can also make it hard to bond with and parent your child. Treatment can ease symptoms and provide support until the depression has passed. Treatment may include:
- Counseling—may be one on one session or with a support group.
- Medicine—to ease depression or anxiety and help progress in therapy
It is also important to develop support system at home. This can include help that allows you to get sleep, visit friends, or do activity you enjoy like exercise. Mother support groups can also be helpful.
People at risk for PDD should talk to their doctors about counseling methods that may help.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Office on Women's Health
Canadian Psychological Association
Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital
ACOG Committee Opinion No. 650: physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstet Gynecol. 2015;126(6):e135-e142. Reaffirmed 2017.
Do I have a form of postpartum depression? American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/forms-of-postpartum-depression. Accessed November 17, 2020.
Postpartum depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/postpartum-depression. Accessed November 17, 2020.
Postpartum depression. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/postpartum-care-and-associated-disorders/postpartum-depression. Accessed November 17, 2020.
Postpartum depression. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Postpartum-Depression. Accessed November 17, 2020.
Stewart DE, Vigod S. Postpartum Depression. N Engl J Med. 2016 Dec 1;375(22):2177-2186.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 04/16/2021