Postpartum depression is a type of depression that affects some women shortly after childbirth. It is not uncommon for women to experience temporary mood disorders after giving birth. If it goes on for more than a week, it is called postpartum depression.
The cause of postpartum depression is unclear. The cause may be related to sudden hormonal changes during and after delivery. Untreated thyroid conditions may also be associated with postpartum depression.
Factors that can increase your chance of developing postpartum depression include:
Symptoms usually occur within 6 months after childbirth, though they may begin during the pregnancy and may last from a few weeks to a few months. Symptoms may range from mild depression to severe psychosis. Postpartum depression is different than baby blues, which is a mild form of depression that occurs within a few days after childbirth and lasts up to a week.
Symptoms may include:
More serious symptoms associated with postpartum depression that may require immediate medical attention include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam may be done. Your doctor may ask you to have blood tests to see if an undiagnosed physical problem, like a thyroid condition, could be contributing to your symptoms. You may be referred to a mental health professional.
Treatment for postpartum depression may include counseling, medication, or both.
Medication may include:
Talk with your doctor about potential medication side effects and how they might affect your child if you are breastfeeding.
Support groups for mothers with postpartum depression can help you see that others are struggling with and managing postpartum depression.
Since postpartum depression is aggravated by stress, life stressors should be kept to a minimum after delivery. The following may help prevent postpartum depression:
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Canadian Psychological Association
Women's Health Matters
Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Committee Opinion, No. 267 . January 2002 (Reaffirmed 2009).
Leopold KA, Zoschnick LB. Postpartum Depression . Women's Primary Health Grand Rounds at the University of Michigan (series). August 1997.
Postpartum depression. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.or... . Accessed March 12, 2013.
Postpartum depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated October 18, 2012. Accessed March 12, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Last Updated: 03/15/2013