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What Causes Postpartum Depression?

Expertly reviewed by Jessica Espanto, LPT, MA, RPsy · Psychology · In Touch Community Services

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 03, 2022

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is not a normal part of giving birth but is somehow experienced by some mothers. Based on statistics, 50% percent of mothers who are experiencing postpartum depression have already been developing symptoms during their pregnancy. To further understand what this condition is, we must first look into the difference between postpartum depression and baby blues, as well as the postpartum depression causes.

Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues

Baby blues is the milder version of postpartum depression. A mother can immediately experience mood swings, sadness, or emptiness right after giving birth. But these symptoms only last for a few days or up to two weeks postpartum.

Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is a mental health condition that makes a mother feel strong negative emotions like depressive moods, irritability, and anger. Unlike baby blues, postpartum depression can last for months, even years.

Baby blues will normally go away, but postpartum depression requires treatment and immediate attention. Postpartum depression is treatable, but make sure to address it immediately as it can worsen over time.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues

Baby blues signs and symptoms include:

  • Sadness and anxiousness
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of sleep
  • Concentration problems

Postpartum signs and symptoms are more severe than baby blues. These symptoms can interfere with a mother’s daily life and will most likely result in child neglect.

Postpartum signs and symptoms include:

  • Excessive sadness and other strong negative emotions like anger and depressed mood
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Distancing oneself from family and friends
  • Crying spells
  • Unnecessary weight loss or weight gain
  • Experiencing sleeping problems
  • Deteriorating memory and cognitive abilities
  • Destructive behavior
  • A tendency to hurt the child or oneself
  • Suicide or infanticide

Immediate professional help is needed if postpartum depression causes a mother to think of harming her baby or oneself.

Postpartum Depression Causes

Postpartum depression is an outcome of different factors. The changes that a woman experiences during the span of her pregnancy until after giving birth are one of the known postpartum depression causes.

The possible postpartum depression causes include:

Hormonal changes

When you are pregnant, your levels of estrogen and progesterone go up to support the changes of your body. But if you have already given birth, your hormones will go back to their pre-pregnancy levels a day after your baby’s delivery.

A woman’s thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth, which may result in symptoms of depression. The changes in hormone levels are quite similar to what happens during a woman’s period, however, postpartum hormones can become more erratic, which can lead to more severe mood swings and other depressive symptoms.

Physical changes

A lot of new mothers have developed problems in gaining back their confidence after giving birth. With all the physical changes that have happened to their body like the painful delivery, the post-pregnancy weight, and the scars that they now have has a great impact on how they look at themselves.

Emotional burden

Too much stress, loss of sleep, and being overwhelmed and anxious about the new responsibilities of being a mother may cause an emotional burden to new parents.

These are some of the most common postpartum depression causes. When these emotions continue to build, it will be harder for the mother to fight back.

Risks Factors

A mother can develop postpartum depression even if it’s not her first pregnancy. Some women may be more at risk of this condition than others. Here are some risk factors that can increase a woman’s vulnerability to postpartum depression:

  • A family history of depression or a non-pregnancy depression in the past
  • If you are suffering from bipolar disorder
  • You have been through stressful situations in past pregnancies, such as miscarriage, painful delivery, or being sick
  • When your newborn is suffering from an illness or has special needs
  • Having difficulties with breastfeeding
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Financial problems
  • Having multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Lack of support from family and friends


The recovery from postpartum depression may vary from the severity of the condition and the willingness of the patient to recuperate. If postpartum depression causes are associated with hormonal problems, then your doctor might advise you to see a specialist. Your doctor might also recommend you to consult a mental health professional to better handle your condition.

Baby blues treatments

Since the baby blues normally go away on their own, here’s what you can do to speed up your recovery:

  • Get some sleep and rest as much as you can
  • Don’t be scared to accept and ask for help
  • Make time for yourself
  • Communicate with family and friends, as well as other moms who have been in the same situation
  • Avoid doing activities that might worsen your condition like doing drugs and alcohol abuse
  • Relaxation techniques, as recommended by a psychologist or counselor
  • Mindfulness activities
  • Proper diet and exercise, as well as enough sleep

Postpartum Depression

The following are treatments for postpartum depression:


Psychotherapy or talk therapy is one of the common treatments for postpartum depression. This kind of therapy is done with the guidance of a psychiatrist, psychologist, or mental health specialist. Talk therapy is about patients sharing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that they think plays a big role in their condition.

Undergoing talk therapy helps patients to discover ways on how to better cope with their feelings and control their emotions. In addition, talk therapy can also improve the way they deal with stressful situations more positively. In some cases, a talk therapy session might also involve the patient’s partner, family members, and friends.


For postpartum depression, the doctor might advise the patients to take antidepressants to help relieve the symptoms of depression. If you are breastfeeding, there are antidepressants with minimal side effects to the baby that your doctor can recommend.

When medications are your concern, make sure to always consult your doctor before trying out any kind of antidepressant.

Key Takeaways

Postpartum depression can take a toll on mothers, especially if it is not addressed properly. If it’s left unchecked, not only will it leave permanent and irreversible damage to the mother, but it will also start affecting the people around her as well.

Any woman who’s recently given birth can go through postpartum depression. It can happen to the best of us, and it can destroy the strongest of us. Feeling this way does not make you a bad parent. If you know somebody who might be experiencing postpartum depression, be sure to reach out and offer help.

Seeking professional help is the best means to deal with this condition.

Learn more about Mothercare and Post-Partum and Self-Care here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Jessica Espanto, LPT, MA, RPsy

Psychology · In Touch Community Services

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Mar 03, 2022

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