Postpartum depression

Having a baby, being a mother for the first time can trigger and jumble up powerful emotions in women, from joy, excitement to tension. And one more thing, which most of us don’t think that a women can have after having a baby, is postpartum (after delivery) depression (PPD). Most of the time, the women experience postpartum depression (or postnatal depression) and baby blues after giving birth to baby. This appears in the form of mood swings, crying, and disturbed sleeping pattern.

These symptoms usually appear within 2-3 days of delivery and may last longer than a week. Sometimes, we confuse it with baby blues, which also occurs after few days of baby birth but not as much severe as the postpartum depression. This is not fatal situation but a delicate issue which needs to be consider. This is very rare that postpartum psychosis occur which needs more care and proper treatment.

According to reports of World Health Organization (WHO) , about 10% women during their pregnancy experience worst symptoms of PPD while 13% have it in first week of delivery worldwide. On the other hand, the rates are high in developing countries in which the percentage for during pregnancy and after baby birth is 15.8% and 19.8% respectively.

Symptoms of postpartum depression

Baby blues last only for one week or two after the delivery and are less severe than depression. Its symptoms are:

  • Mood swings
  • Feeling sad
  • Anxiety
  • Troubled sleeping pattern
  • Irritation

On the other hand, the symptoms of postpartum depression are:

  • Excessive crying
  • Feeling depressed and severe mood swings
  • Difficulty to bond with baby
  • Insomnia
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling disconnected and lost
  • Fear of not being a good mom
  • Feeling ashamed and guilty
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
  • In most severe cases, suicidal thoughts

The most severe form of postpartum depression is postpartum psychosis with much severe symptoms. These include confusion, irritation, hallucination, feeling paranoid; feeling obsessed with baby and attempts to harm yourself or the baby.

Postpartum depression in new fathers

Less frequently but the young father can also experience postpartum depression. In case, the person already has a history of depression, he may have symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, depression and disturbed sleeping pattern etc.

What causes postpartum depression?

There are no specific causes of postpartum depression. Similarly not all the mothers experience this condition. However, from medical point of view, the causes for postpartum depression may be:

1. Hormonal imbalance

During the pregnancy period, the body is flooded with hormones. Moreover, right after birth, there is sudden drop of hormones- estrogen and progesterone. On the other hand, there is increased level of oxytocin hormone. All this hormonal changes initiate and trigger the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.

2. Emotional and psychological issues

The women who become mother for the first time have troubled sleeping pattern. This sleep deprivation may trigger the postpartum depression. The mother feels anxious and fears that she may not be good mother and other related symptoms.

Risk factors

The risks factors are greater if the women have:

  • History of depression
  • Newborn has some health issues
  • Family pressure
  • Financial problems
  • The pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted


Postpartum depression may lead to complicated issues if not treated at time. For instance, mothers may have chronic depression in future and sometimes symptoms get worse. Moreover, father may have worsening of symptoms, if this condition is not treated within time, this cause strain in both parents. The newborn is neglected and parents may fear to have another baby in future.

Not only the parents but also the baby gets affected by prolonged symptoms of postpartum depression. The baby has behavioral issues this affects and their intellectual abilities as well.


Usually the doctors diagnose the PPD by talking to person and asking questions.

  • Perform a psychological analysis thorough a questionnaire.
  • They may perform blood testing to check the underlying hormonal imbalance or thyroid issue.

This is responsibility of the spouse and the family to help the mother or both parents to get through the postpartum depression.

Treatment options

The treatment depends on the severity of symptoms. Psychological therapies or medicines are used for treatment.

If someone is having baby blues, the symptoms usually disappear within one week and don’t get sever. However, these can be cured:

  • By taking rest
  • Avoiding the alcohol and drugs
  • Involvement in some productive activities

For treatment of postpartum depression the treatment options are:

1. Psychotherapy

It is also the speak and talk therapy. The psychiatrist helps relieving the symptom by talking to mother. The health care provider suggests you to solve your issues, relieve your anxiety and how you can cope with your fears and concerns.

2. Antidepressants drugs

These drugs help you relieve your symptoms. For instance, Sirtraline (Zoloft). On the other hand, they have some side effects as well. This causes health problems in newborn due to maternal breast feeding.

The most severe case is postpartum psychosis which is treated by:

3. Medications

Antidepressant is the first choice of medicines for treatment of symptoms such as mood stabilizers and benzodiazepines etc. these also relieve insomnia.

4. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

If the medicines do not relieve the symptoms, the doctors apply ECT. This involves passing small electric currents through brain which initially trigger brief seizure. This therapy possibly changes the brain chemistry to reduce psychosis.

Prevention is better than cure….

Postpartum depression is real and can be more severe and prolonged if not treated in time. Women or both parents can prevent it by taking into account these factors:

1. Maintaining healthy lifestyle

This not only involves taking balanced and healthy food but also physical activities. Such as taking a walk together with baby. Moreover, avoid alcohol and drugs.

2. Be realistic

Set realistic goals for family and lifestyle. Do your best for achieving what you want but don’t push and pressurize yourself for what you can’t have or change.

3. Care for yourself

If you are doing a job or a housewife, take some time for yourself. Have some quality time with spouse and family. Schedule your routine that provides you some time for yourself. You can have a hobby or entertainment during this time as well.

4. Avoid isolation

This is for spouse and family members that don’t isolate the new mother. Give her company and talk to her if you suspect symptoms or postpartum depression especially if she has previous history of depression.

5. Help your loved ones

Being a friend or family member, it’s our responsibility to help and take care of our friend not only during pregnancy but also after baby birth. If you observe some symptoms, you can help by taking her to doctors or may be your attention and care is enough to relive symptoms.