Having a baby is one of life's most wonderful experiences. It's exciting and joyous, but it can also be exhausting and frightening. After a woman has had a baby, she may find that she is confused and overwhelmed about the various emotions that she feels. She may worry that she's unable to deal with the responsibility of being a full-time parent.
After childbirth, many women experience symptoms of depression that can range from a brief attack of the "baby blues" to a serious and major clinical depression known as postpartum depression. A great majority of new mothers, about 80%, will experience a mild form of "baby blues," usually within a few days after giving birth. These feelings will usually resolve on their own and often go away within 7 to 10 days.
Postpartum depression affects about 10% to 20% of new mothers. This type of depression can affect women who have never been depressed before. Approximately 50% of women who were depressed during or after their pregnancy will also experience depression during future pregnancies. Postpartum depression may begin anytime in the first 6 months after delivery.
Postpartum psychosis is the most severe form of postpartum depression. It is relatively rare, and requires immediate discussion and treatment with a qualified health care provider.
There has been no single cause identified for postpartum depression. In fact, many factors can contribute to it. They may include:
- hormonal changes
- disappointment in birth experience
- a sense of loss from no longer being pregnant
- level of marital satisfaction
- caring for a very needy baby
- lack of family and social support
- family history of postpartum depression
- history of depression