Postpartum Depression Statistics: Knowing The Numbers

Updated October 21, 2020

Having a new baby is always a pleasing and beautiful moment for both the expecting mothers and their families. The preparations for the big day are always massive, from setting aside a new room to the baby shower, and many other exciting activities for the new baby. Yet, the moment shortly after delivery might be stressful for the new mother. Childbirth is regarded as a major emotional and physical stressor in a new mom’s life.

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Most women experience some changes in their mood and emotion shortly after delivery. These changes experienced are normal, and it is regarded as “baby blues”. Baby blues usually starts within the first three days after childbirth and may last for two weeks. Some of these changes are exacerbated and prolonged in some women than it is expected. Several factors may contribute to these exacerbated changes in some women.

Defining Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a severe, intense, and long-lasting baby blues experienced by new moms after delivery. It is a common medical condition experienced in the postpartum period, with 1 in 8 women suffering from depression within the first six months after delivery. Postpartum depression has become a global mental health concern affecting millions of postpartum women yearly.  With studies showed that about 65% of new moms in Asia suffer from postpartum depression.

Women with postpartum depression usually present with intense anxiety, sadness, or despair that makes them incapacitated to function appropriately. These feelings usually last longer than baby blues, which resolves within two weeks after delivery. Postpartum depression may take various forms, and it could be missed on diagnosis for a long time.

Postpartum depression is a complex mix of emotional, physical, and behavioral changes experienced by some women shortly after delivery. These experiences have been attributed to the chemical, social and psychological changes that surround childbirth.

It is important to note that fathers and partners may suffer from depression shortly after welcoming their new babies. Hence, it’s not only limited to women after delivery.  PPD doesn’t spare any race, culture; both the rich and poor may experience these distressing mood disturbances.

Factors That Predispose To Postpartum Depression

There is no known single cause of postpartum depression. However, there are physical and emotional factors that may predispose one to come down with depression post-pregnancy. It is believed to be largely caused by the interaction between genetic and environmental conditions. The risk factors for postpartum depression are the age of the mother at the time of pregnancy, history of depression or bipolar disorder prior or during pregnancy, birth complications from a previous pregnancy, the number of children before the index pregnancy, hormonal changes due to pregnancy, history of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), loneliness, lack of social support, and marital conflict. Also, women with infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or those treated for infertility, or women with conditions such as thyroid disorders or type I or II Diabetes.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum depression?

Symptoms of postpartum depression vary largely, the duration and how intense these symptoms may vary from person to person. Hence, a high index of suspicion of these experiences by the new moms is important to help them take the next steps to recovery. These symptoms are similar to those of depression but may include other symptoms.

When the following symptoms persist for more than two weeks after delivery, normal functioning is affected, or having suicidal thoughts, seeking help is expedient. The symptoms of postpartum of depression include:

  • Experiencing low mood or being restless
  • Being sad or overwhelmed
  • Feeling guilty or worthless.
  • Easy fatigue or being irritable
  • Crying easily and too often
  • Withdrawing to staying away from family and friends
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Eating too much or refusing to eat.
  • Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
  • Lack of energy or loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
  • Lack of care or refusing to breastfeed the baby
  • Having suicidal thought towards self or the new baby
  • Having memory problems or difficulty in taking decisions
  • Neglecting the baby or holding belief that the baby is someone else’s

Knowing The Numbers

Though there are missed cases of some women that may have experienced postpartum depression or have been wrongly managed, studies have shown that about 70% to 80% of women after delivery will experience mood disturbances, emphasizing 1 in 8 women may suffer depression after delivery, with 10-15% suffering from a more disabling condition of postpartum depression while 0.1%-0.2% may suffer from a rare form of postpartum psychosis.

About 50% of women diagnosed with postpartum depression have their first episode of depression after delivery. Also, about 50% of women diagnosed with postpartum depression usually experience symptoms of depression earlier before delivery.

And according to the American Association of Pediatrics, more than 400,000 infants are born to depressed mothers every year.

About the risk factors, studies have shown that 30% to 35% with a history of depression, mood disorders, or anxiety disorders are likely to develop postpartum depression. A woman with a previous history of postpartum depression is 10% to 50% likely to come down with depression in subsequent pregnancies.

Also, about half of women with postpartum depression first began experiencing symptoms of depression during pregnancy. Hence, emphasizing the need for pregnant women to assess for depression during pregnancy to pick out likely symptoms early enough. When the symptoms of postpartum depression are observed early, getting them treated, and the path recovery is faster.

Postpartum Depression And New Fathers

Postpartum depression isn’t limited to new mothers; new fathers also suffer from depression similar to their partners. There are cases of new fathers who shortly after their wives were delivered of their babies suffered from depression. Studies showed that 10% of new fathers suffered from depression presenting with depressed mood, fatigue, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, anxiety, or sadness.

Also, half of the new fathers whose wives had postpartum depression may experience depression within a year. The likelihood of new fathers experiencing postpartum depression is greater in young fathers, those with a previous history of depression, struggling financially, or had a bad relationship experience.

According to research in 2010, there were findings showed that 4% of new fathers experienced depression within the first year of their babies. And 1 out of 5 fathers experienced one or more depressive episodes by the child’s 12th birthday.

New fathers with symptoms of anxiety or depression, as described above during their partner’s pregnancy or within the first year after delivery, should seek help. At BetterHelp, competent professionals are ever ready to meet your needs and help you through these challenges.

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Treating Postpartum Depression

Picking out the symptoms of postpartum depression early is essential for a prompt and swift recovery, significantly reducing risk to the mother or her baby, and prevent future episodes. Also, assessing susceptible women during pregnancy would go a long way in anticipating the likelihood of a depressive episode after delivery.

Postpartum depression is an emergency, and such women should get appropriate help as soon as possible. They require to be well attended to, with a high level of care, enough bed rest for the mother. For the safety of both mother and baby, they should be managed as an inpatient for proper supervision.

The symptoms profile guides the modality of treatment, and that is determined by the professional. The modalities of treatment include medication, therapy, or both. The forms of therapy include Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy are proven to be effective in treating postpartum depression. If these modalities don’t yield better results as expected, Brain stimulation techniques such as Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used.

It is important to educate the new mom and her family about the mental distress she experienced and the need to get registered early at a health facility for subsequent pregnancy. Also, Supportive therapy may help a mother to child bonding just before hospital discharge in cases of long child neglect due to PPD.

Complications Of Postpartum Depression

Leaving a woman with postpartum depression untreated pose more challenges to the mental health of the new mom, her baby, and family. This could severely affect the mother to child bonding, cause neglect of personal care and care for the baby. Failing to breastfeed, touch, or holding the belief of the baby being someone else’s further increases the chance of harm to the baby. Hence, mothers with PPD shouldn’t be left alone to care for their infants.

Poorly or untreated women with PPD may be dangerous to self and family. Postpartum depression may become worse to psychosis, where they experience delusions and hallucinations. Also, children of mothers with untreated postpartum depression may later develop behavioral or emotional problems like excessive crying, eating and sleeping difficulties, or delayed language development.

Preventing Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a distressing mental illness that poses a lot of challenges to the new mothers, their partners, and families. However, postpartum depression may be prevented by offering psychological and supportive care to the new mothers following childbirth. Supportive care includes peer support, home visits, and interpersonal therapy.

Screening for susceptible women for depression at least once during pregnancy or in the first year after delivery was recommended by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in view to prevent the disintegrating nature of postpartum depression. Also, behavioral health resources were recommended for those with a positive screen. With these recommended screenings and follow-up care, it was shown to be cost-effective and restoring a better quality of life to those affected.

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Conclusion

Postpartum depression is a severe mental health condition in child-bearing women that require urgent medical intervention. With varying frequency and intensity of symptoms sometimes makes it difficult to be recognized early. Hence, proper screening and assessment during pregnancy and after childbirth may help in reducing its frequency of 1 in every eight pregnant women. Postpartum depression isn’t limited to women; there are cases of new fathers who had suffered from depression within one year after welcoming their babies. Studies have shown that half of the partners of women that experience postpartum depression may come down with depression.

You can learn more about postpartum depression and possible ways to prevent or pick up its symptoms early by checking out other articles on the subject. Should you have questions or clarifications on the subject or other related subjects, you can also schedule an appointment with competent mental health professionals at BetterHelp.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Do men suffer from postpartum depression?

Feeling depressed after welcoming a new baby isn’t limited to new moms. New Fathers may also get depressed following the birth of a new child; they may present with symptoms similar to those seen in women with postpartum depression. There are cases of new fathers who shortly after their wives were delivered of their babies suffered from depressed mood. Studies showed that 10% of new fathers suffer from depression in the first year of welcoming their new child, and they presented with depressed mood, fatigue, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, anxiety, or sadness.

Also, half of new fathers whose partners with postpartum depression may experience depression within a year. The likelihood of new fathers experiencing postpartum depression is greater in young fathers, those with a previous history of depression. Struggling financially or having had a bad relationship experience.

  1. What are the symptoms of postpartum psychosis?

Typically, postpartum depression begins after the first month of delivery but could begin at any time after delivery. Clinically, postpartum depression is difficult to distinguish from depression occurring at other times in a woman’s life. The symptoms of postpartum depression vary largely; the duration and the intensity of these symptoms may also vary from person to person. Hence, a high index of suspicion of these new experiences by the new moms is important to help them take the next steps to recovery.

These symptoms include depressed or sad mood,  cry easily and at slightest happenings, withdrawal from friends and family, tiredness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, poor appetite,  disturbed or difficulty to sleep, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, neglect of new baby, suicidal thoughts, among others.

  1. What are the causes of postpartum psychosis?

There is no known single cause attributed to postpartum depression, but emotional and physical factors had been attributed as the causes of postpartum depression. Studies have shown that interaction between genetics and the environment may have a role in the cause of the illness. Postpartum depression may occur at any age, regardless of race, culture, income, level of education, or socioeconomic status.

The abrupt drop in the level of pregnancy hormones after delivery could predispose a woman to postpartum depression. The levels of estrogen and progesterone, as well as thyroid hormones after delivery, may be indicated as being the cause of the changes in the mood of a new mom following weeks after delivery.

Sleep deprivation or being overwhelmed by the events surrounding welcoming a new baby may contribute to the emotional factors implicated in postpartum depression. These emotional factors often make the new mom anxious, less attractive, or struggle to identify with her baby.

  1. What should I do if I have symptoms suggestive of postpartum depression?

When you notice symptoms that are suggestive of postpartum depression, it is important you get reviewed by your healthcare provider or a professional to make a diagnosis. Having symptoms similar to those seen in postpartum depression does not necessarily mean you have PPD. One has to carefully review the onset of symptoms, frequency, intensity, complications if any, life events surrounding those periods and/or other comorbidities. A diagnosis should be certified by a health practitioner to avoid misdiagnosis or missing postpartum depression in a rare form as the symptoms of PPD varies widely.

  1. Can postpartum depression reoccur after being previously treated in the past?

Postpartum depression is a mental health condition that is experienced by women some weeks after welcoming their babies. Changes in the hormonal level of a woman after being delivered of her baby might be the factor as to why she came down with depression. The treatment offered didn’t necessarily removed the trigger completely. Hence, subsequent pregnancies put her at risk of coming down with another episode of depression. So being treated once for postpartum depression doesn’t mean one is not susceptible to another depressive episode.

Various factors may predispose one to postpartum depression, and these factors need to be assessed to prevent another depressive episode. Postpartum depression is likely to reoccur if a pregnant woman is exposed to a similar trigger in a previous pregnancy. Factors like a history of depression or bipolar disorder before or during pregnancy, birth complications, history of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), loneliness, lack of social support, and marital conflict.

  1. Am I at risk of having postpartum depression?

Though studies have shown that anyone can come down with postpartum depression, however, some certain groups are regarded to be more susceptible to having PPD. An individual with a previous history of Postpartum depression is 10%-50% likely to have another episode.

Other people at risk of PPD are women with history depression during pregnancy, bipolar or depressive disorder, family history of depression or PPD, marital problems, young age (less than 20 years), stressful life events, having hospitalized baby, childbirth complications, lack of family and social support, previously treated for fertility.

However, with the above-listed risk factors for postpartum depression, it is important for pregnant women or women with previous PPD to get registered for antenatal clinics for regular assessment for depression during pregnancy and close monitoring after delivery.

  1. What are the consequences of untreated for postpartum depression?

If postpartum depression is left untreated, this further predisposes the woman to more destabilizing mental conditions like postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental condition in which one loses touch with reality. A woman with postpartum psychosis may experience hallucinations and delusions, where they hear voices not heard by others in clear consciousness or hold beliefs not expected to be held based on the ethical, cultural, educational, or religious beliefs.

Other complications of untreated postpartum depression include lack of self-care, neglect of the baby, lack of care for the baby, self-harm, suicidal ideation, infanticide, behavioral or emotional problems.


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