Pregnancy Home > Pregnancy and Depression

Risk Factors

During pregnancy, these factors may increase a woman's chance of depression:
  • History of depression or substance abuse
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Little support from family and friends
  • Anxiety about the fetus
  • Problems with previous pregnancy or birth
  • Marital or financial problems
  • Young age (of mother).

Postpartum Depression

Depression after pregnancy is called postpartum depression or peripartum depression. After pregnancy, hormonal changes in a woman's body may trigger symptoms of depression. During pregnancy, the amount of two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, in a woman's body increases greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, the amount of these hormones rapidly drops back down to their normal non-pregnant levels. Researchers think the fast change in hormone levels may lead to depression, just as smaller changes in hormones can affect a woman's moods before she gets her menstrual period.
Occasionally, levels of thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that helps to regulate your metabolism (how your body uses and stores energy from food). Low thyroid levels can cause the following symptoms:
  • Depressed mood
  • Decreased interest in things
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain.
A simple blood test can determine if this condition is causing a woman's depression. If so, a doctor can prescribe appropriate medication.
Other factors that may contribute to postpartum depression include:
  • Feeling tired after delivery, broken sleep patterns, and not enough rest often keeps a new mother from regaining her full strength for weeks.
  • Feeling overwhelmed with a new, or another, baby to take care of and doubting your ability to be a good mother.
  • Feeling stress from changes in work and home routines. Sometimes, women think they have to be "super mom" or perfect, which is not realistic and can add stress.
  • Having feelings of loss -- loss of identity of who you are, or were, before having the baby; loss of control; loss of your pre-pregnancy figure; and feeling less attractive.
  • Having less free time and less control over your time. Having to stay home indoors for longer periods of time and having less time to spend with your partner and loved ones.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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