While it’s nearly impossible to determine in advance which women will experience postpartum depression, risk factors help providers determine if somebody is more likely to develop the condition. This, in turn, makes it easier for providers to detect, prevent, and treat the condition.
Personal history of depression as a biological risk factor
Having a previous experience with depression does increase the likelihood that a woman will develop postpartum depression. It’s a biological risk factor – in other words, a previous history of depression indicates that a woman’s unique brain chemistry is more prone to depression, compared to someone who hasn’t ever experienced depression.
Nearly 30% of women who have had depression will develop postpartum depression. And beyond that, one study relates that women who have experienced pregnancy- or postpartum-related depression are 50 to 62% more likely to develop depression during a future pregnancy or postpartum period.
Other biological risk factors for depression
Women who have never experienced depression may still be at higher risk of postpartum depression, depending on some other risk factors. One of the major factors is a family history of depression, as it tends to run in families, but others include stressful life events like:
- A difficult, medically complicated, or traumatic birth
- A baby born with a medical problem
- Personal illness, or illness in a loved one
- Problems with your partner, including being emotionally or physically abused by your partner
- Lack of support from family or friends
- Financial problems
- An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Trouble adjusting to life as a mom
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, or using illicit drugs
In no way does a past experience with depression guarantee that a woman will develop postpartum depression after giving birth, but previous depression does increase the likelihood that a woman will develop it again in the postpartum period.
Make sure that your healthcare provider knows about your personal or family history of depression during your pregnancy, so that they can be proactive in prevention and treatment, ensuring you get the support and resources you need during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Fortunately, knowing one’s personal or family history of depression can drastically increase the rate at which postpartum depression is detected, diagnosed, and treated.
- “I struggled with depression years ago – am I at risk of developing it again?”
- The connection between PMS and PPD
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- “Postpartum Depression.” March of Dimes. May 2018. Web. https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/postpartum-depression.aspx