Postpartum Depression is a condition, which sometimes occurs when a woman, who has recently delivered a baby, feels down, depressed, hopeless, overwhelmed and sometimes irritable. She may harbour feelings of inadequacy as a mother and may feel that she is unable to cope. The mother may have long and frequent crying spells, or she may feel emotionally detached from everything, including the baby. Some women say they feel numb, while others feel anxious or panicky. They often have frightening thoughts or fantasies that they cannot get out of their minds. Postpartum Depression is often accompanied by guilt, shame and/or feelings of isolation. It is definitely a serious and debilitating condition that requires professional intervention.
Unlike popular beliefs, Postpartum Depression is quite common in North America and other Western countries around the world. Different studies state different percentages, but researchers and clinicians alike agree that at least 10%, and possibly more, of recently delivered women, develop the condition. This means at least 1 out of every 10 mothers!
The onset of Postpartum Depression can occur within a few days, a few weeks, or a few months after delivery. Normally, an onset of depression within the first year following delivery is considered to be Postpartum Depression, unless there has been another major stressor in that period, such as the a loss of a loved one. Anyone can get Postpartum Depression; it does not discriminate between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, younger and older mothers, or Caucasians and women of colour.
We do not know what causes Postpartum Depression. There are a variety of theories about possible causes, such as the hormonal theory, the genetic makeup theory etc. However, to date, research has not supported any single theory. Rather, scientists and clinicians alike believe that Postpartum Depression is caused by a combination of factors, rather than one single factor. We know, for example, that women are more at risk if they have had a mood disorder (such as depression, bipolar disorder), prior to getting pregnant. Also, women who have a close family member who has had any psychiatric disorder are more at risk. Similarly, women who have experienced abuse or trauma in the past, whether or not related to childbirth, may be more at risk. Medical complications during the pregnancy and/or the birth may also precipitate Postpartum Depression. Women who have certain personality traits, such as perfectionism or inflexibility, have also been found to develop the condition more frequently than others. Finally, women who live in impoverished conditions, are struggling financially, have not planned or wanted the pregnancy or have no support, may be prone to Postpartum Depression.