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Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Last updated Jan. 31, 2022

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a mood disorder that can affect women, and in smaller numbers men, after the birth of their child. The video provides patient testimony and information on the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and reinforces the importance of seeking help and treatment from a health professional.

What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Postnatal Depression
  • PPD (Postpartum Depression)

What is Postpartum Depression? (Definition/Background Information)

  • Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a mood disorder that can affect women, and in smaller numbers men, after the birth of their child
  • A large number of women have, what is called as “baby blues”, right after they give birth
  • These are feelings of sadness that should fade within a few weeks. However, when these feelings linger, it could be a Postpartum Depression
  • Postpartum Depression can start right after birth, or within one year of the child’s birth; thought, it most commonly starts 1-3 weeks after delivery
  • The condition may also manifest in the form of anxiety; when the mother over-worries about the health and well-being of the infant

Who gets Postpartum Depression? (Age and Sex Distribution)

  • More women are diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, but men can also be affected
  • Women under 20 years old are more prone to develop the condition

What are the Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression? (Predisposing Factors)

The risk factors for Postpartum Depression could include:

  • Family or personal history of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or a previous Postpartum Depression
  • Delivery or pregnancy difficulties
  • Stressors, such as financial or marital problems
  • Unplanned or complicated pregnancy
  • Lack of social support
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Not breastfeeding the child (for various reasons)

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases one's chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Postpartum Depression? (Etiology)

The exact cause of Postpartum Depression is unknown, but there are many factors that can lead to development of the condition. These are:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Problems related to the thyroid gland
  • Difficulty or unable to breastfeed
  • Lifestyle and relationship changes leading to emotional distress
  • A difficult or sick infant
  • Lack of sleep
  • Changes in parental/social roles: Having the responsibility of caring for another life, or having to care for more than one child
  • For men; it can be changes in lifestyle and/or financial concerns
  • Absence of spousal or social support

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

The signs and symptoms of Postpartum Depression include:

  • Feeling sad or anxious constantly
  • Feeling irritable and angry
  • Feelings of guilt and emptiness
  • Having unusual or extreme fears
  • Not wanting to socialize, staying at home in seclusion
  • Losing interest in things or activities that used to be previously pleasurable
  • Not being able to interact or connect with the baby
  • Thinking about harming self or the baby
  • Eating or sleeping problems
  • Feeling extreme tiredness
  • Not trusting oneself to care and love the baby
  • Being unable to accomplish everyday tasks, such as cleaning, cooking, or keeping up with personal hygiene
  • Unable to feel loved and supported
  • Low self-esteem

How is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of Postpartum Depression is made mostly by evaluating the mother’s family history and on performing a physical examination. Some other diagnostic tools include:

  • Many doctors will give women questionnaires after birth, which may possibly indicate Postpartum Depression. One of the most commonly used is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). This is a questionnaire with 10 questions that can easily detect potential Postpartum Depression
  • Women who are aware of the symptoms can also talk to their doctors about it
  • One other criterion for diagnosis is that the symptoms should have started within 4 week of delivery

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Postpartum Depression?

A few complications of Postpartum Depression could include:

  • It is important to treat Postpartum Depression, because if it is left untreated, it could become a major clinical depression
  • Also, once women have Postpartum Depression it is more likely for them to develop depression again, during the course of their lives
  • Having the condition does not only impact the depressed person, but it may impact the whole family
  • It can be more difficult to interact with the baby, causing future issues for the infant. These can range from behavioral problems to speech delays
  • Women with Postpartum Depression may withdraw from their partners and family, causing relationships to become strained

How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

Women with Postpartum Depression should look for support and advice. This can be through physicians, therapists, or by joining certain support groups. Medication or alternative medicine can be used depending on the individual and the level of care required. The most common treatment methods are:

  • Counseling
  • Antidepressants
  • Hormonal Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Diet: Maintaining a healthy diet, drinking plenty of liquids, and eating foods that contain ingredients, such as Omega 3 (found in fish, eggs, and flex seed oil), proteins (found in meats, nuts, and beans), and regularly taking their prenatal/postnatal vitamin supplement
  • Exercise
  • Women should try to sleep when the baby sleeps
  • Accepting help from family and friends and taking the time to do something that will bring personal pleasure
  • Having realistic expectations; the condition may take a little time to improve and get better

How can Postpartum Depression be Prevented?

  • A healthy lifestyle with proper diet and physical activity could help in preventing Postpartum Depression. However, the results may not be guaranteed
  • Planned pregnancy can lead to less stressor, like having adequate family and financial support
  • Education: Knowing the symptoms may not help prevent Postpartum Depression, but it will help with early diagnoses and possibly quicker recovery
  • Inform your doctor if you have a prior history of the condition, so that they can provide a close monitor and timely help if needed

What is the Prognosis of Postpartum Depression? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • The outcome is better if Postpartum Depression treatment as early as possible

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Postpartum Depression:

The following DoveMed website link is a useful resource for additional information:


What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 12, 2013
Last updated: Jan. 31, 2022