By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Postpartum depression (Postnatal depression) is a type of depressive illness that some women experience after child birth. This form of depression usually occurs around 4 to 6 weeks after delivery but sometimes does not manifest until months after the baby is born. The condition can occur whether a woman gives birth naturally or by way of a caesarean section.
The exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown. However, hormonal fluctuations after birth, financial worries, relationship issues, lack of social acceptability and support (in cases where the mother is a single teenager for example), a previous history of depression and mood disorders are all factors that increase the risk of postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression
The symptoms of postnatal depression are similar to those of clinical depression. Some of the symptoms include:
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and tearfulness that may last for weeks. Some amount of low mood, tearfulness and irritability is normal after childbirth due to hormonal fluctuations, but with postpartum depression these feelings do not naturally subside.
Anxiety, depression, guilt and low self-esteem. These feelings may arise from fears of being poor at parenting or through fear of being judged by others.
Feeling tired and fatigued. This may be normal after childbirth for a few weeks or months but among those with postnatal depression the tiredness is profound, causing lethargy and disinterest in doing anything and in the outside world.
Insomnia or the inability to fall or stay sleep.
Appetite changes such as loss of appetite or binge eating.
Loss of sex drive.
Thinking about and planning suicide (in severe cases).
Treatment of postpartum depression
The treatments that are available for postpartum depression include:
Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy
Self help and group therapy
These treatment approaches may be used alone or in combination with each other.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Oct 14, 2013