Postpartum Depression

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuidePostpartum Depression: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

What are causes and risk factors for postpartum depression?

Similar to many other mental health conditions, there is thought to be a genetic vulnerability to developing postpartum depression. Rapid changes in the levels of reproductive hormones that occur after delivery are thought to be biological factors in the development of postpartum depression. Interestingly, men are also known to experience changes in a number of hormones during the postpartum period that can contribute to the development of PPD. Also, the stress inherent in caring for a newborn is a considerable factor.

Further risk factors for developing postpartum depression include marital problems, low self-esteem, and a lack of having social support before and after the birth of the child.

What are postpartum depression symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of postpartum depression begin within four weeks after having a baby and include the following:

  • Feelings of profound sadness, emptiness, emotional numbness, irritability, or anger.
  • Feelings of irritability or anger
  • A tendency to withdraw from relationships with family, friends, or from activities that are usually pleasurable for the PPD sufferer
  • Constant fatigue or tiredness, difficulty sleeping, overeating, or loss of appetite
  • A strong sense of failure or inadequacy
  • Intense concern and anxiety about the baby or a lack of interest in the baby
  • Thoughts about suicide or fears of harming the baby

Postpartum psychosis occurs much more rarely and is thought to be a severe form of postpartum depression. Symptoms of that disorder include the following:

  • Delusions (false beliefs)
  • Hallucinations (for example, hearing voices or seeing things that are not real)
  • Thoughts of harming the baby
  • Severe depressive symptoms
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2015

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