Postpartum Depression (cont.)
Postpartum Depression Causes
and Risk Factors
No specific cause of postpartum depression has been found.
- Hormone imbalance is thought to play a role.
- Levels of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol fall dramatically within 48 hours after delivery.
- Women who go on to develop postpartum depression may be more sensitive to these hormonal changes.
- Other known risk factors
- Mental illness before pregnancy
- Mental illness, including postpartum depression, in the family
- Postpartum mental disorder after an earlier pregnancy
- Conflict in the marriage, loss of employment, or poor social support from friends and family
- Pregnancy loss such as miscarriage or stillbirth
- The risk of major depression after miscarriage is high for women who are childless. It occurs even in women who were unhappy about being pregnant.
- The risk for developing depression after miscarriage is highest within the first few months after the loss.
- Childbirth is a time of great change for a woman. The adjustment to these changes can contribute to depression.
- Physical changes after delivery
- Many changes occur after delivery, including changes in muscle tone and difficulty losing weight.
- Many new mothers are very tired after giving birth and in the weeks afterward.
- Soreness and pain in the perineal area (area around the birth canal) makes many women uncomfortable. Physical recovery after cesarean delivery may take even longer than after vaginal delivery.
- Changes in hormones can affect mood.
- Common emotional changes after delivery
- Feelings of loss of an old identity, feeling trapped at home
- Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities of motherhood
- Feeling stress from changes in routine
- Feeling fatigue because of broken sleep patterns
- Feeling less attractive physically and sexually
- A mother's age and the number of children she has had do not relate to her likelihood of getting postpartum depression.
- Men whose partners suffer from postpartum depression have been found to be at higher risk for developing a similar condition or other mental health problems at that time.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/24/2014
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