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How can I recognize postpartum depression?

When you consider the word “postpartum,” you might naturally think about the time immediately after a baby’s birth. And while many cases of postpartum depression might occur closer to birth, you might be surprised to find that postpartum depression can actually develop anytime within the first year or so after you deliver.

Why does postpartum depression develop?

There is no one single cause of postpartum depression (PPD) – rather, it could be due to a number of different factors.

  • Hormones: They say that pregnancy is a rollercoaster, and when it comes to hormones, that’s absolutely true. After the massive drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone that happens after childbirth, it’s very common to notice fatigue and sadness, as well as other bodily effects that can contribute to postpartum depression.
  • Life changes: So you’ve dealt with pregnancy and the changes it brings, but bringing a baby home presents a whole new set of challenges. It can take some time getting used to all of the change and new responsibilities in life, and if you feel overwhelmed from time-to-time, you can consider yourself part of the majority. However, when “occasionally overwhelmed” turns into “definitely depressed,” it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider.

Other possible contributing factors include sleeping problems and sleep deprivation, nervousness about caring for a newborn, and stress about work. It’s important to note that postpartum depression is clinically different than regular depression. Although those with PPD likely also notice the regular symptoms of depression like anxiety, sadness, and social withdrawal, postpartum depression is generally only diagnosed as such when the depression symptoms come in conjunction with, or are a result of, hormonal, physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes due to childbirth and motherhood. However, postpartum depression is more common in those with a history of depression or mental illness.

If you believe you may have symptoms of postpartum depression, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. There are a number of different ways doctors treat PPD, but no matter which one your healthcare provider thinks is best, it’s much easier to get through when you have help. Approximately 10 to 15% of new moms develop PPD, so you’re far from alone if you do. Just know that help is available, and with Baby here, the future is bright.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, August 11 2015. Web.
  • “Postpartum Depression.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, February 27 2017. Web.
  • “Postpartum Depression Facts.” National Institute of Mental Health. National Institutes of Health. Web.

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