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.
The cause of PPD is unclear. The cause may be related to sudden hormonal changes during and after delivery.
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
Hormonal changes in the brain may contribute to postpartum depression.
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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
- Sleeping too much
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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. 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 May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 8/28/2018