Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect some women after childbirth. It affects about 10% of mothers with newborns. Mothers with postpartum depression may experience intense feelings of anxiety, fatigue, and sadness that make it difficult to engage in daily tasks. Postpartum depression is not attributed to a single cause. Rather, it likely stems from a combination of physical and emotional factors, alongside life experience; it is not a result of something a mother does or does not do during pregnancy.
After childbirth, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are high during pregnancy, drop drastically. This leads to chemical changes in the body and the brain that can lead to mood swings and other symptoms of postpartum depression. Mothers may be unable to get the rest that they need to recover from childbirth. This can result in sleep deprivation, which can further exacerbate symptoms.
The risk for postpartum depression has been observed to be higher in some women, such as with low-income women or single mothers and in areas where mental health or illness is not recognized. Moreover, women who have had a prior history of mood disorders are at higher risk than those who have not. For those who are on medication, changes in their medicine regimen due to pregnancy or after childbirth can result in turbulent emotions.
Pregnant mothers may also develop depression during pregnancy, called perinatal depression, which can be an early indicator of postpartum depression. If a mother is showing early signs of postpartum depression, the sooner she talks to a doctor or counselor, the earlier she will start to feel better again.