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Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that affects some women shortly after childbirth. It is not uncommon for women to experience temporary mood disorders after giving birth. If it goes on for more than two weeks, it is called postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression may result from sudden hormonal changes during and after delivery and untreated thyroid conditions.

Are You at Risk for PPD?

Factors that can increase your chance of developing postpartum depression include:

  • Previous episode of depression or postpartum depression
  • History of anxiety disorder
  • Family member with depression
  • Lack of support system and/or strained relationship with partner
  • Difficulty with breastfeeding



Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Symptoms usually occur within six months after childbirth, though they may begin during the pregnancy and may last from a few weeks to a few months. It most often started within the first few weeks after childbirth. Symptoms may range from mild depression to severe psychosis.

Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Change in weight or appetite
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Poor concentration, memory loss, difficulty making decisions
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Feelings of irritability, anxiety or panic
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Obsessive thoughts, especially unreasonable, repetitive fears about your child’s health and welfare
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Thoughts or death or suicide

More serious symptoms associated with postpartum depression that may require immediate medical attention include:

  • Lack of interest in your infant
  • Fear of hurting or killing oneself or one's child
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Loss of contact with reality

PPD Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor may ask you to have blood tests to see if an undiagnosed physical problem, like a thyroid condition, could be contributing to your symptoms. You may be referred to a mental health professional and treated with counseling, medication or both.

Medications for Postpartum Depression

Medication may include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Anti-psychotic drugs for severe cases

Talk with your doctor about potential medication side effects and how they might affect your child if you are breastfeeding.


You may be referred to a therapist for counseling. Counseling may be individual or with a group. Support groups for mothers with postpartum depression can help you see that others are struggling with and managing postpartum depression.

Tips to Prevent Depression

Since postpartum depression is aggravated by stress, life stressors should be kept to a minimum after delivery. The following may help prevent postpartum depression.

Before delivery:
  • Childbirth education classes
  • Realistic expectations about the postpartum experience
After delivery:
  • Get treatment for any mood disorders
  • Help with childcare and household chores
  • Rest when you can
  • Some women feel better when the number of visitors is limited; others feel better when they have other people around
  • Support to allow yourself some enjoyable personal time, such as going for a walk


Call 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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