Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Postpartum Depression

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.

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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.
RESOURCES:

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
https://www.acog.org

Office on Women's Health
https://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Psychological Association
https://www.cpa.ca

Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

REFERENCES:

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. Updated August 2015. Accessed August 28, 2018.

Postpartum depression. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113729/Postpartum-depression. Updated August 14, 2018. Accessed August 28, 2018.

Postpartum depression. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/postpartum-care-and-associated-disorders/postpartum-depression. Updated June 2018. Accessed August 28, 2018.

Postpartum depression. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Postpartum-Depression. Updated December 2013. Accessed August 28, 2018.

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 8/28/2018