- Psychological Issues
There are no singlular causes of Postpartum Depression, although research has shown that many different factors can influence whether or not a woman will develop it. These can include the physical, mental and emotional strain of having a baby, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors, plus lack of support from your partner, friends and family. There are also situations and circumstances which can predispose you to becoming more susceptible, such as having prior experience of mental health issues. It’s important to note however that postpartum depression can also begin for no obvious reason and sometimes cannot be attributed to any particular cause.
The physical and emotional changes that every woman goes through during childbirth are challenging for everybody and they can be enough of a strain to be among the causes of postpartum depression. Having a baby can be a wonderful, rewarding and exciting time but can also bring huge amounts of stress, exhaustion and emotional upheaval. Lack of sleep can take its toll along with the hormonal changes that occur after childbirth which can result in mood swings and tearfulness. There may have been difficulties with the birth, an emergency delivery or problems with your own or the baby’s health which have delayed your recovery and caused additional stress. For some women, the realization that you are now completely responsible for another person can be overwhelming, even if the baby was planned, wanted and prepared for.
Added to this, if you have money, housing, or any other financial difficulties, having a baby in these circumstances can make it very difficult to cope. These external stressors are among the potential causes of Postpartum Depression.
Whether you have support or not has been shown to be crucial in determining whether a woman will develop Postpartum Depression. Single young mothers under 20 are particularly at risk, along with women who are isolated from family who have few friends to rely on. Also if you are a recent immigrant, asylum seeker or refugee this can mean you are also at risk due to limited social support. Similarly, having available sources of support but not asking for help can also increase stress and make it difficult to manage depression. Society places a lot of emphasis on the arrival of a baby being a happy time, so it can be hard to admit you are struggling or need help. Even women in stable relationships can develop Postpartum Depression however, as a newborn baby changes everything and can put a strain on even the happiest of couples.
If you have suffered Postpartum Depression in a previous pregnancy, the chances are increased that you will develop it again with subsequent births, so it’s important to be mindful of this and make sure you get help and support. Also, if you have suffered mental health issues including anxiety and depression at any time in your life, or during the pregnancy, this can also put you at greater risk.
Major life events happening at the same time as having a baby can also have a huge impact on whether you will develop Postpartum Depression. These can include the death of someone close to you, moving house, losing your job, illness or a relationship break-up. It’s important to remember too that having a baby in itself is a huge life change. It can be difficult to deal with the fact that your life now revolves around your baby’s needs and not yours. You may have had to alter your whole way of life, give up work or leisure activities and find you have less time to see friends. Many women struggle with their identity and who they are now they have become a mother. It can be extremely hard to find any time for yourself or pursue interests or activities that you enjoy due to the 24-hour demands of looking after a baby. There can be a sense of loss, for the life you had and the person you were which can be difficult to accept in the face of pressure to be a good mother.
Other risk factors and causes of Postpartum Depression include experiences of early childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse or difficult family relationships. This can mean it is difficult for you to relate to your baby or adapt to the role of being a mother. Becoming a parent can bring up past issues and if you did not have good role models growing up, it can be extremely difficult to know how to look after a child. You may be unsure how to care for them if you were not shown love or care yourself.
There can be physical causes of Postpartum Depression too which are completely unrelated to the pregnancy, birth or other factors mentioned above. If you notice physical changes along with symptoms of depression you should make sure you visit your doctor to rule out any underlying illness or medical condition.
Ultimately, what makes one woman develop Postpartum Depression and not another depends on many variables. A woman could have all the risk factors and not go on to develop it, or develop it for no particular reason. The important thing to remember is that Postpartum Depression is easily treatable and can be managed effectively.
If you are worried that you may have Postpartum Depression you should visit your doctor as there are many different kinds of help and support available.
For a general overview of Postpartum Depression with guidelines for treatments, read What is Postpartum Depression?
For more detailed information on symptoms, read Symptoms of Postpartum Depression.