Even under the best of circumstances, pregnancy and childbirth are incredibly stressful events that leave a large impact on all involved. These are events that most commonly bring love, joy, and happiness but that is not the case for all new parents. Talking about complicated negative emotions surrounding childbirth does carry stigma, and drawing awareness is the first step in combatting them. This article aims to provide some basic education on what peripartum depression is, who may be at risk, signs, and symptoms, as well as, when to get help.
To better understand peripartum depression, it is important to keep a few terms in mind.
The “baby blues” are a period of depression, anxiety and moodiness that occur after childbirth, beginning the first few days after childbirth and can last for up to a few weeks. Psychiatry.org estimates that up to 70% of people will experience the “baby blues” after giving birth, marking this as a very common occurrence after giving childbirth.
Postpartum depression is any depression occurring after childbirth that involves intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair that interfere with daily tasks. It can start up to 1 year after giving birth but generally will start about 1-3 weeks after childbirth. This has been the most common term in use, but peripartum depression is the most accurate term currently, as it covers depression during and after pregnancy.
Peripartum depression, sometimes noted as perinatal depression, is depression occurring during pregnancy or after childbirth that involves intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair that interfere with daily tasks. This can start anytime during pregnancy or after birth up to 1 year afterwards. Psychiatry.org estimates that roughly 1 in 7, or about 15% of pregnant individuals experience peripartum depression.
What Causes Peripartum Depression
Just like non-pregnancy related depression, peripartum depression can be caused by any combination of factors. This list includes some of the most commonly known causes as a starting point.
- Hormone changes involved with childbirth
- Sleep deprivation
- Stressful life events
- Feelings of doubt
- Emotions involved with difficult pregnancies
- Prior history of depression
- Lack of social support
- Grief of loss of prior sense of self
- Unrealistic parenting expectations
Who is at Risk
Any pregnant individual, during pregnancy and after childbirth, carries the risk of developing peripartum depression but there are certain circumstances that can increase that risk. Additionally, while there is not as much research on this topic yet, partners who are not pregnant or who have not given birth, are also at risk of developing peripartum depression. Risk factors can vary based on age, race/ethnicity, and other categories, so here is a short list of some of the most common risk factors.
- Having a history of mental illness
- A family history of mental illness or peripartum depression
- Being under the age of 20 during pregnancy
- Having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Substance abuse
- Changes in medications
- Lack of social support
Signs and Symptoms
Only medical professionals and mental health professions can appropriately diagnose peripartum depression, but there are still many signs and symptoms that you can look out for and make note of. Postpartumdepression.org breaks these down into 4 subcategories: emotional signs, mental signs, physical signs, and behavioral signs. Please see below for their comprehensive list.
- Excessive crying for long periods for seemingly no reason
- Drastic mood swings
- Easily agitated or irritated
- Intense anxiety, worry, and fear that hold the individual back from performing daily tasks
- Expressing feelings of shame, guilt, or hopelessness
- Describing feelings of extreme sadness and despair
- Thoughts of suicide or suicidal ideation
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Increased indecisiveness
- Feelings of doubt and blame
- Muscle aches and pains
- Stomach pains
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of energy
- Eating too much or too little
- Sleeping too much or too little
When to Get Help
If you or a loved one feels that you may be suffering from peripartum depression, it is important to get help right away. It is recommended to not just wait for your next healthcare appointment and instead, reach out to your healthcare team as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment options, which may include medication and/or talk therapy. Make a list of all the symptoms you’ve observed and how long they have been present as this information will assist your healthcare team in assisting you.
You do not have to suffer in silence. Peripartum depression is not a normal part of pregnancy or childbirth, and we are here to listen and help. You can reach us through our Contact Us page or by calling us at 513.846.5283. We look forward to meeting you soon!
Carberg, J. (2022, September 30). Helping women with postpartum depression. PostpartumDepression.org. Retrieved April 20, 2023
Postpartum depression. Postpartum depression | Office on Women’s Health. (2021, February 17). Retrieved April 20, 2023
Postpartum depression. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2021, December). Retrieved April 20, 2023
Torres, F. (2020, October). What is peripartum depression (formerly postpartum)? Psychiatry.org – What is Peripartum Depression (formerly Postpartum)? Retrieved April 20, 2023