Why Does Postpartum Depression Happen?

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Why Does Postpartum Depression Happen?

Many of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth. There are several factors that contribute to postpartum depression. Such factors that contribute to postpartum depression include:

The Experience of the Pregnancy

Many mothers experience great pregnancies with little to no issues. However, many more face different issues like complications during pregnancy. Common pregnancy complications include abdominal pain, hormone imbalances, and bleeding.

An expecting mother may also experience emotional or interpersonal issues during pregnancy. Any stress, conflict, or emotional issues will contribute to the onset of postpartum depression. Such issues an expecting mother may have include:

  • Changes of a miscarriage
  • Uncertainty about quality of life after birth of child
  • Limited support during pregnancy
  • Uncertainty about relationship status after birth
  • Family or relationship issues that cause stress
  • Abuse or violence during pregnancy
  • Pre-existing mental health issues, like depression or anxiety
  • Financial concerns
  • Concerns about competency as a parent

The Birthing Experience

Having complications or trauma during birth can also contribute to postpartum depression. Things like a premature birth or an early C-section can by traumatic for a new mother. It causes a wide range of emotions, like sadness, fear, and anxiety. These feelings can result in a depressed state that can carry on through the first months after giving birth. Often in these kinds of situations the mother also faces concerns about motherhood. Thoughts like ‘did I do something wrong?’ and ‘I am afraid I caused harm to my baby’ may occur.

Having a baby who is ill is also a major risk factor for postpartum depression. For a mother, having a baby who has complications is very upsetting. Sometimes, through no fault of the mother, a baby will be born different than that of a healthy baby. Birth complications like prematurity or genetic disorders are common. However, they are also devastating to a new mother. Often a mother will blame herself for the complications of the baby. Though it is often at no fault to the mother, she can be very hard on herself. She may internalize the problems with the baby as reflection on her motherhood. This has a high risk of causing postpartum depression.

The Disposition of the Baby

Another consideration is the disposition of the baby. Babies are overwhelming. Especially to a new mother, it can be quite difficult to adjust to such a big (and loud) responsibility. Mothers are at higher risk of having postpartum depression if their baby is colicky or fussy. The constant crying and stress is enough to cause a great deal of anxiety. Coupling that with a lack of sleep and exhaustion creates a high risk for postpartum depression. This is especially problematic for single mothers without the support of another adult.


The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy may cause postpartum depression. The hormonal changes that occur in an expecting mother can cause:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Unexpected mood swings
  • Change in appetite

Sometimes the hormonal changes are so intense that they result in depression. This is not uncommon and is especially prevalent in new mothers. Your body will adjust with time. If hormone imbalance is the major contributing problem you will feel better within the first six months after giving birth. However, it is important to speak with your doctor about any postpartum symptoms. They will be able to help you cope with the changes. They may also prescribe medications if deemed necessary.


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