Postpartum or Postnatal Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors

Postpartum or Postnatal Depression:

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.

Postpartum or postnatal depression
Fig: Postpartum or postnatal depression

Symptoms of Postnatal or Postpartum Depression:

Some of the more common postnatal or postpartum depression symptoms a woman may experience include:


  • Persistent sadness, anxiousness or “empty” mood.
  • Severe mood swings.
  • Frustration, irritability, restlessness, anger.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
  • Guilt, shame, worthlessness.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Numbness, emptiness.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Inability to be comforted.
  • Trouble bonding with the baby.
  • Feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby.

You can read: Management of Emerging Situation During Child Birth


  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities.
  • Low or no energy.
  • Low libido.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Fatigue, decreased energy and motivation.
  • Poor self-care.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep.


  • Diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly.
  • Lack of concentration and poor memory.
  • Fear that you cannot care for the baby or fear of the baby.
  • Worry about harming self, baby, or partner.

Causes of Postnatal or Postpartum Depression:

There’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.

1. Physical changes:

After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in the body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by thyroid gland also may drop sharply which can leave feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.

2. Emotional issues:

When sleep deprived and overwhelmed, it may have trouble handling even minor problems. It may be anxious about the ability to care for a newborn. It may feel less attractive, struggle with the sense of identity or feel that lost control over life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.

Risk Factors of Postnatal or Postpartum Depression:

Postpartum depression can develop after the birth of any child, not just the first. The risk increases if:

  • Depression or anxiety during pregnancy.
  • Stressful life events during pregnancy or soon after giving birth.
  • Traumatic childbirth experience.
  • Preterm delivery.
  • A baby needing neonatal intensive care.
  • Lack of social support.
  • Previous history of depression.
  • Breastfeeding problems.

Other risk factors include:

  • Baby blues after delivery.
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
  • A baby with birth defects or other medical problems.
  • Multiple babies (such as twins or triplets).
  • Family history of psychiatric problems.
  • Being single.
  • Low socioeconomic status or financial instability.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Unemployment.
  • Many medical appointments during pregnancy.
  • Pregestational or gestational diabetes.

While the causes of postpartum depression are not understood, a number of factors have been suggested to increase the risk:

  • Prenatal depression or anxiety.
  • A personal or family history of depression.
  • Moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms.
  • Maternity blues.
  • Birth-related psychological trauma.
  • Birth-related physical trauma.
  • Previous stillbirth or miscarriage.
  • Formula-feeding rather than breast-feeding.
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Childcare or life stress.
  • Low social support.
  • Poor marital relationship or single marital status.
  • Low socioeconomic status.
  • Infant temperament problems/colic.
  • Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy.
  • Elevated prolactin levels.
  • Oxytocin depletion.

More questions related to this article:

  1. What is postpartum depression?
  2. What is postnatal depression?
  3. What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
  4. What are the sign and symptoms of postpartum depression?
  5. What are the sign and symptoms of postnatal depression?
  6. Mention the causes of postpartum/postnatal depression.
  7. Mention the risk factors of postpartum/postnatal depression.

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