No one knows the exact causes of postpartum depression. PPD is more than the baby blues; it lasts longer and is more severe. The “baby blues” typically resolves within about ten days after delivery. Postpartum depression lingers. The baby blues cause mild sadness and mood swings. PPD causes severe depression and loss of interest in life.After pregnancy, progesterone levels fall drastically. Like progesterone, the levels of estrogen, a hormone that seems to be important in memory and mood, fall 90 to 95 percent in the first 48 hours following delivery. Thyroid levels may also drop sharply after birth.
A thyroid deficiency can produce symptoms that mimic depression, such as mood swings, severe agitation, fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety. A link between estrogen levels and postpartum depression has not been established and experts cannot agree on the role that hormone fluctuations play in postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression researchers are also investigating genetics as a cause of the disorder.
Possible Causes of Postpartum Depression
- feelings of loss: loss of identity, loss of control, loss of body image
- stress related to a woman’s job and responsibilities outside and inside the home
- a resurgence of sad feelings about past losses
- a woman’s personal history and feelings about parenting
- deep concern and pressures about being the “perfect mother”
- financial worries
- sadness about having less time to spend with the baby’s father.
- shifts in the levels of hormones like progesterone, estrogen and thyroid during pregnancy and after birth
- sleep deprivation and exhaustion, especially after a cesarean delivery
- confinement to the indoors for long periods of time.