Manoeuvring through Postpartum Depression 

You are expected to understand and appreciate life better once you start growing one inside of you. It’s a given that your mother instincts kick in, the moment you feel that first kick or the vagitus of the wonderful child you brought into this world. Pregnancy is considered an occasion of merriment. Often childbirth is seen as achieving the true purpose of a woman’s life. So it seems absurd that so many women fall into depression after giving birth to the child that they carried, nurtured and loved for the past nine months. 

Giving birth is an extraordinary experience. It’s magical and life-changing. But often than not, it’s also overwhelming and tiring. Emotions of exhaustion can often cloud feelings of excitement. But it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. Worry and doubt are something common for especially first-time parents. However, the situation becomes worrisome when the parents, especially the mother, feel engulfed with extreme sadness or loneliness. They start experiencing mood swings and have frequent bouts of crying spells. These can all be indicators of postpartum depression. 

What is Postpartum Depression 

Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a complex blend of emotional, behavioural and physical changes that a woman might experience after giving birth. People with PPD experience fatigue, anxiety and frequent crying spells. Emotional highs and lows, guilt and trouble caring for and taking care of their child are also common symptoms. Such changes can be linked to psychological, hormonal, chemical, financial and social changes that occur during the process of childbirth. 

According to DSM-V, PPD is a form of major depression which develops within the first 4 weeks of childbirth. The diagnosis of the same is based on not just the duration of the depressive episodes, or the period between childbirth to the onset of PPD, but also the intensity or severity of the depression faced. 

PPD often stems from irrational fears about harming the baby or concerns about the baby’s health. Panic disorder is thus an additional symptom that may occur. Overall, it’s a complex form of depression that has various causes and multiple symptoms to confirm the diagnosis. It is often experienced by mothers but can also develop in surrogates and adoptive parents. 

Factors causing PPD

Chemical Changes:

After childbirth, the mothers experience a rapid drop in hormonal levels that were elevated during the period of pregnancy. The levels of estrogen and progesterone, being the female reproductive hormones, are especially elevated tenfold during pregnancy. But by three days of childbirth, these levels drop back to their normal ranges. Other hormonal levels, such as the ones produced by the thyroid gland, too experience a fall, adding to the reasons why the mothers feel sluggish, depressed and severely tired. Such a fluctuation of hormonal levels leads to feelings of unrest and uneasiness. 

Social Changes: 

Many social factors may affect a mother in a detrimental manner which often pushes them to fall into depression, especially after childbirth. Women under the age of twenty are too young and often find it difficult to cope with the mental, physical and financial toll that pregnancy can have on them. Similarly, single mothers who do not have partners to rely on or women who live alone and have limited external social support often suffer from PPD. Facing marital conflicts and being in a verbal, emotional or physically abusive relationship can also drive mothers to depression. 

Psychological Changes:  

Several psychological triggers can play a role in women suffering from PPD. One of the most obvious amongst them is ambivalence concerning pregnancy. Felling unsure or having conflicting ideas about the decision of having a baby can cause severe uneasiness, which might lead to depression. Going through a stressful event, such as losing a job or facing health concerns may also be a supplemental factor. Having a child with special needs or experiencing complications during the pregnancy that might have a toll on the baby’s health can also affect the mother’s mental well-being. 

Family Background:

Family plays a crucial role in an individual’s life. So a family history of mood disorders or depression might elevate the chances of the new mother experiencing PPD. The number of children can also play a contributing role in increasing the chances of PPD. If a woman already has children, the risk of the mother experiencing PPD after having another baby increases. Similarly, having twins or triplets can have a comparable effect. 

A History of Problems:

A mother’s well-being depends a lot on her experience during the nine months of carrying her child. If she has a history of suffering from depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) before or during the pregnancy, the chances of her suffering from PPD increase. Similarly, being sleep-deprived can make the mother feel overwhelmed, making it difficult to cope with even the smallest of issues. This can in turn trigger anxiety in terms of being able to take care of the newborn child. Self-image is thus an important factor. If the mother does not feel confident or in control, she may slip into depression. 

 Some Common Symptoms 

Some of the common symptoms that a woman can experience after childbirthnwhich may hint towards PPD:

  • Severe fatigue 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Spells of insomnia or trouble sleeping 
  • Lower libido and loss of pleasure 
  • Feelings of helplessness and worthlessness 
  • Severe and frequent mood swings 
  • Feeling overwhelmed to the point of depression 

Types of Postpartum Mood Disorders

There are three types of emotional and mood changes that a new mother can experience after giving birth:

1. Baby Blues:

As many as 70% of women are noted to go through Baby Blues after childbirth. It extends up to a few hours after childbirth but sometimes stretches to a week or two after delivery. In this type of Postpartum Mood Disorder, the mother may experience sudden mood swings. Feeling impatient, having random spells of crying, and being cranky and restless are also common symptoms. Such feelings of sadness and loneliness can be an unpleasant experience to go through. However, this condition isn’t too serious and usually subsides within two weeks without any medical interventions. Often, finding social support and joining support groups of new moms can be helpful. Talking to other mothers or turning to your partner and family for help can also make you feel better. 

2. Postpartum Depression: 

Postpartum depression is a much more serious condition in comparison to baby blues. It has been statistically found to affect 1 in every 7 new parents, with the risk of it increasing to a 30% if the mother has experienced PPD before. The timeline for postpartum depression to happen varies from a few days after childbirth to even a few months. It’s a condition that can be experienced even by mothers who have had children before, thus not limiting itself to first-time pregnancies. The common symptoms of PPD often withhold the mother from doing mundane, everyday things. Sadness, despair, crankiness and anxiety are usually experienced in intense measures. 

While Postpartum Depression is a serious condition, it can be monitored and treated through medications and counselling. Seeing a health care provider such as the OB/GYN is important to screen the mother for depressive symptoms and come up with a treatment plan thereafter. It is advised to seek medical intervention, lest the symptoms might worsen. 

3. Postpartum Psychosis:

Postpartum Psychosis is a relatively rare condition, affecting only one in a thousand people. It is a serious mental illness, the symptoms of which usually show up within the first three months of delivery. New mothers often lose touch with reality. They even experience auditory and visual hallucinations. They can also experience delusions, believing things that are not happening or are irrational. Insomnia, restlessness, anger and strange behaviours are some other common symptoms. Women with postpartum psychosis require immediate medical care. They also almost always require medications. They might get admitted into hospitals during a severe case, when they are seen as harmful to themselves, their child or others. 


Postpartum Depression can be treated in several ways, depending on the type of symptoms and their severity. So, mothers whose symptoms persist for beyond two weeks or who find it difficult to function normally should seek help at the earliest. Treatment options may then include participating in support groups, antidepressant medications or psychotherapy. Doctors usually prescribe medicines and therapy keeping in mind that the women are lactating and breastfeeding. This makes seeking help completely safe and thus, shouldn’t be avoided. 

Avoiding treatment can usually harm the mother’s bond with her child. This impacts the family dynamics as a whole. The mental health of the mother, especially after the delivery, should be taken care of. It not only affects the mother’s moods but also causes problems in the child’s healthy development. The child may experience problems with eating, sleeping or delays in language development. The father of the child, or the partner of the new mother, might also experience loneliness and feel overwhelmed in the process.   

Having PPD is not an indication of the mother doing anything wrong. So if you feel that you might be experiencing the above symptoms, you can schedule an online session with an RCI Licensed Clinical Psychologist on Venthrapy today. 

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