Perinatal depression is a mood disorder than can affect women during and after pregnancy. Mothers with perinatal depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or other.

With perinatal depression, feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and might interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family. The condition, which occurs in nearly 15% of births, may begin shortly before or any time after childbirth, but commonly begins between a week and a month after delivery.

Causes of perinatal depression: There isn’t a single factor that causes perinatal depression but is likely the result of several physical and emotional factors. During pregnancy and after childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly change. This change in brain chemicals can cause mood swings.

Symptoms of perinatal depression:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty or overwhelmed
  • Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling worthless, guilty or ashamed
  • Appetite or weight is changing
  • Experiencing overwhelming fatigue
  • Have intense anger and irritability
  • Have severe mood swings
  • Have difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Lack joy in your life
  • Have withdrawn from family or friends
  • No longer interested in sex
  • Have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Having recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation, plans or attempts

Risk Factors:

  • Symptoms of depression during or after a previous pregnancy
  • Previous experience with depression or bipolar disorder
  • A family member has been diagnosed with depression or other mental illness
  • A stressful life event during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth, such as job loss, death of a loved one, domestic violence, or personal illness
  • Medical complications during childbirth, including premature delivery or having a baby with medical problems
  • Mixed feelings about the pregnancy, whether it was planned or unplanned
  • A lack of strong emotional support from her spouse, partner, family or friends
  • Alcohol or other substance use problems

Postpartum Depression is temporary and treatable with professional help. If you feel you may be suffering from this illness, know that it is not your fault and you are not to blame. You can find more resources on our Crisis and Warm Lines page and Family and Partner Resources page. We understand what you are going through and will connect you to people who understand and can help.