Topic: Postpartum Depression Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention Strategies
While postpartum depression could strike anyone, there are some factors that increase your risk. Learn more about what causes postpartum depression and how to prevent it.
After giving birth, about 80 percent of new mothers experience sadness and mood swings known as the “baby blues.” These symptoms usually last days or weeks after birth—but occasionally they develop into more severe postpartum depression (PPD).
Postpartum depression affects one in nine new mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and symptoms can appear up to one year after giving birth. Signs of PPD include persistent sadness or emptiness, hopelessness, guilt, insomnia, weight loss, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and more. Doctors normally treat PPD with antidepressant medication, counseling, or both.
Anyone can develop postpartum depression, but certain factors may increase your risk. Here’s everything you need to know about the causes and risk factors of postpartum depression.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Doctors have traditionally blamed postpartum depression on the dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that occurs after giving birth. These hormonal changes alter the chemical balance in your brain. However, hormones can’t explain everything; otherwise, all new mothers would plummet into depression.
According to the latest research, women who suffer from PPD show clear warning signs during pregnancy; many have risk factors, such as a history of depression. PPD may also be associated with sleep deprivation, feelings of loneliness associated with new motherhood, the physical changes of pregnancy, breastfeeding difficulties, and more.
Always tell your doctor if you experience symptoms of PPD, or if you think you’re at risk for developing it. “Doctors can detect the most vulnerable women early and prevent illness before it strikes,” says lead researcher Zachary Stowe, M.D., director of the Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Disorders Program at Emory University in Atlanta.
Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can happen to anyone, whether it’s your first child or fifth. But factors that may raise your risk include:
History of depression or bipolar disorder: Women who have previously had clinical depression are much more likely to develop PPD. Keep in mind that you may not have necessarily been aware of, or treated for, past episodes of depression. It’s important to look at your life carefully—your adolescence, your young adulthood, previous postpartum experiences—and assess whether you have had any significant episodes of anxiety or depression that have hindered your ability to function.
Severe PMS: Because postpartum depression seems partly triggered by hormonal changes after childbirth (and possibly after weaning), many experts believe that previous hormonal sensitivity raises a red flag. PPD risk may increase in women with a history of severe PMS, or in women who experienced negative mood changes while taking birth control pills.
Topic Discussed: Postpartum Depression Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention Strategies
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