Can We Prevent Postpartum Depression?

Can We Prevent Postpartum Depression?

Most women who experience postpartum depression, at some point or another, wonder, why did this happen? Our best answer to this is that a number of factors combine to put a woman at risk for depression after childbirth, some of which are hormonal, biologic, genetic, environmental and psychological.

Taking a closer look at what may have put you at risk may help you better understand your experience as well as prepare you for a subsequent pregnancy, if that is something you are worried about. Consider the following circumstances and how they may have impacted your experience:

1) You may be especially sensitive to hormonal changes. Hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormones and cortisol may become unbalanced in women who are especially vulnerable.
2) Sleep deprivation or irregular, unpredictable sleep patterns can lower your resistance.
3) If depression runs in your family, you are more at risk to experience it yourself. Understanding the course of any illness experienced by a family member may offer insight into the treatment of your own. In other words, if several family members have been successfully treated with a certain antidepressant, it provides useful information for your treating physician, because odds are that you will do well on the same antidepressant.
4) There does seem to be an unsubstantiated, but clinically relevant association between the tendency to be a perfectionist or a “control freak” and difficulty in the postpartum period (when things are so drastically out of control for a while!)
5) Pre-existing anxieties, predispositions to worry or ruminate, or obsessive qualities will put a woman at risk.
6) Any premorbid psychiatric history (that which occurred prior to PPD), such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a previous episode of PPD, depression unrelated to childbirth, or other diagnosed disorder for which you did or did not receive treatment will put you at risk.
7) Any history of early loss, trauma, abuse or significant dysfunction in your family will likely affect your ability to cope after the birth of your baby.
8) Other current outside stressors, such as major losses or changes related to: job, move, illness, death, divorce, for example.

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