Causes of Prenatal and Postpartum… | Counseling | Therapy

Causes of Prenatal and Postpartum Depression

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

Postpartum Depression Therapy in Philadelphia: Prenatal and postpartum depression are considered to be a type of mood disorder.

Prenatal depression and postpartum depression are caused by a combination of hormonal changes and life stressors.

During pregnancy women’s bodies experience a tremendous amount of physical change, including a steadily increasing amount of hormones. The increase in hormones, causes some women to experience rapid mood changes. Physical changes include on average, gaining 25-30 pounds of weight, which makes it harder to physically move. Furthermore, many women experience morning sickness, swollen feet, forgetfulness, exhaustion difficulty walking and an increase need to urinate. All of these physical changes can make a woman feel physically uncomfortable, physically out of control or have a sense of pending doom (e.g. change). These factors may contribute to feelings of depression. Life stressors during this phase also contribute to women feeling depressed. For example, she might be in an unhappy marriage. She might be single. She might have a partner who does not believe the physical changes she is experiencing are real. She might have a partner who expects her to continue doing all the same chores around the household and work full time. She might feel worried about her financial situation. Lastly, she might be starting a new job, moving or simply not having enough friends who can relate to the struggles and joys of pregnancy and childrearing.

After birth, women, regardless of how they experienced pregnancy are at risk for experiencing postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is common. The causes are often multifaceted. After the birth of a child many changes occur simultaneously. After the birth of the child and more importantly the placenta, women experience an abrupt drop in hormone levels. As with an increase in hormones, a decrease in hormones can cause depression. In addition, the very process of labor and delivery is physically exhausting. If that was not enough, after birth the focus of attention often shifts from mom to baby. While the newborn needs attention, most moms are in need of being taken care of so that they can take care of their child. Sometimes mom is left to fend for herself. Lastly, once the baby is born, mom’s have an enormous amount of life changes to cope with. For many people the combination of hormonal shifts, physical exhaustion, the physical changes to their bodies, the lack of attention and the demands of motherhood are too much.

The combination of all of the changes make it easy for a person to start feeling sorry for themselves. Worse yet many moms then feel guilty for not being overjoyed by the miracle of life. Given that pregnancy wrecks havoc on a woman’s body (gaining 25 pounds), destroys flat stomachs, and giving birth is one of the most exhausting experiences of a person life, not to mention that in the immediate weeks afterwards, sleep becomes a memory of the past, it is no wonder that studies show that up to 70% of postpartum women experience some degree of baby blues.


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