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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Postpartum Depression
      Category : Health Centers > Depression

Postpartum Depression

Alternate Names : Baby Blues

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that occurs in some women within the first 6 weeks after childbirth. Depression is a medical condition that leads to intense feelings of sadness or despair. These feelings don't go away on their own.

What is going on in the body?

Depression is a disorder of the brain. Researchers believe that chemicals called neurotransmitters are involved in depression. Nerve impulses cause the release of neurotransmitters from one nerve cell, or neuron, to the next. This release allows cells to communicate with one another. Too little or too much of these important neurotransmitters may be released and cause or contribute to depression. Some of the neurotransmitters believed to be linked to depression are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Pregnancy and childbirth are accompanied by hormonal changes that can affect emotions. The round-the-clock job of caring for a new baby can seem overwhelming at times. Too little rest usually accompanies these physical and emotional stresses.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many theories about what causes depression. Depression may be caused by any of the following:

  • certain illnesses
  • certain medications, including antibiotics and medicines used to treat acne
  • changes in brain chemicals
  • heredity
  • hormonal changes
  • lack of sunlight
  • major stresses
  • negative thinking patterns
  • Risk factors for depression in general include:

  • alcohol abuse
  • drug abuse and addiction
  • job strain
  • personal history of a suicide attempt
  • personal or family history of depression
  • stress
  • The hormonal changes of pregnancy and childbirth contribute to a woman's risk for postpartum depression. Caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. Physical exhaustion, lack of sleep, unrealistic role expectations, and social isolation can all play a role in postpartum depression.

    The following increase the risk for developing postpartum depression:

  • early hospital discharge after childbirth
  • history of severe premenstrual syndrome
  • lack of support system
  • marital problems
  • previous history of depression
  • traumatic birth experience


    Next section


    Postpartum Depression: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 09/25/01

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