Postpartum depression basics: Expert answers to your 8 most-asked questions

2. Are there predisposing factors that increase a woman's risk of having postpartum depression?

A personal or family history of depression or mental illness puts one at higher risk for PPD. Other factors that seem to play a role are an unwanted pregnancy; a complicated or difficult labor; a fetal anomaly; a lack of social support; and a temporary upheaval, such as a recent move, death of a loved one, or job change. Women who have previously suffered from depression following the birth of a child have an increased risk of becoming depressed following a subsequent delivery. In women with a history of PPD, the risk of recurrence is about one in three to one in four.

3. What causes postpartum depression?

While the causes are not known, research suggests that PPD may be triggered by the hormonal shifts that occur after delivery and are greatly exacerbated by the stress of a major life change.

4. Are there obvious warning signs of postpartum depression?

Yes. Symptoms include deep sadness, irritability, apathy, intense anxiety, lack of appetite, inability to sleep, crying spells, irrational behavior, and highly impaired concentration and decision-making. Women with PPD have feelings of being overwhelmed, are unable to cope with daily tasks, and feel guilty about not being a good enough mother.

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