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5 things to know about depression after having a baby

By Kate Hobbs Knutson, MD, MPH | February 17, 2019 | Healthy Lifestyle

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Feeling sad, overly anxious and restless are all symptoms of postpartum depression. Though this condition can only be diagnosed by a doctor, there are a few things to look for in mothers after giving birth.

If you notice this behavior in yourself or in a loved one, call a health care provider.


Risk factors for developing depression after giving birth include:1

        Depression during pregnancy

       Experiencing stressful life events

        Anxiety during pregnancy

     Traumatic birthing

     History of depression

    Breastfeeding problems


There is no single cause of postpartum depression and it is not caused by something a mother does or does not do.After giving birth, hormone levels in a woman’s body drop quickly, leading to chemical changes in her brain which may cause mood swings. Symptoms of postpartum depression vary from woman to woman.


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Here’s what you should know about depression in mothers after giving birth:

  • Depression is the most common mood disorder and is twice as common in women as in men.
  • Depression is one of the most common medical complications during and after pregnancy. It affects one out of seven women.
  • Depression after giving birth often goes unnoticed because changes in sleep, appetite, and sexual desire are also associated with pregnancy and postpartum changes.
  • Developing depression and other mood disorders after giving birth can have major effects on women, infants, and their families.
  • Suicide tops hemorrhage and high blood pressure complications as a cause of death in new mothers.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends doctors who treat pregnant women to screen patients at least once after giving birth for depression and anxiety symptoms.4

Here are other resources to help you and your loved one before, during and after pregnancy:

Postpartum depression facts from the National Institute of Mental Health

If you have concerns about you or your loved one’s well-being, the best course of action is to call your health provider.



1 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists- Screening for Perinatal Depression, Vol. 132, No. 5, November 2018 data from Lancaster CA, Gold KJ, Flynn HA, Yoo H, Marcus SM, Davis MM. Risk factors for depressive symptoms during pregnancy: a systematic review. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2010;202:5-14 and Robertson E, Grace S, Wallington T, Steward DE. Antenatal risk factors for postpartum depression: a synthesis of recent literature. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2004; 26:289-95

2, 3 National Institute of Mental Health – Postpartum depression facts

4 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists- Screening for Perinatal Depression, Vol. 132, No. 5, November 2018