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Depression After Pregnancy

What Causes Depression After Pregnancy?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 15:56

There is no single cause for the emotional difficulties many women experience after giving birth. However, experts suspect that rapid postpartum changes in levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone may have a powerful effect on women's postpartum mental health.

  • Progesterone and estrogen are secreted by the ovaries and placenta, allowing the uterus to receive and maintain a fertilized egg. Levels of these hormones increase 10-fold during pregnancy. If levels of these hormones are too low, a miscarriage may occur.
  • After childbirth, progesterone levels drop dramatically, reaching pre-pregnant levels about 72 hours after delivery. Experts suspect that this dramatic shift in female hormones may play a major role in depression after childbirth.
  • During pregnancy, levels of endorphins, which are naturally secreted chemicals that make us feel good, also increase. Endorphin levels drop sharply after pregnancy, which also adds to the risk of depression.

In addition to these physiological changes, other factors that may contribute to postpartum depression include:

  • Difficult pregnancy and/or delivery
  • Problematic or troubled marriage or intimate relationship
  • Baby with a high level of needs
  • Sense of loss at not being pregnant anymore

Need To Know:

Women who are suffering from postpartum blues, depression, or psychosis are not at fault. They are not bad or incompetent mothers, and have done nothing wrong.

Need To Know:

The importance of getting enough sleep cannot be overstated. Many experts believe a disruption in a new mother's sleep patterns can contribute significantly to depression. Napping during the day, while the baby naps, is a good way to catch up on sleep that may be interrupted repeatedly during the night.


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