Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression

Having a baby is usually a joyous occasion. After a safe delivery, maternal instincts begin to grow. Bonding begins as a mother finally gets to hold her child in her arms and continues through each feeding, swaddling, and kiss goodnight. But some women cannot enjoy these wonderful new bonding emotions and, rather, find themselves drifting farther away from their new child, their family, and themselves. Postpartum depression can leave a vacuum of apathy between a child and mother, robbing them of the intimacy and bonding that is critical for both of them. Some women become so depressed that they physically risk hurting themselves or their baby. This postpartum psychosis is a severe and dangerous form of postpartum depression. Knowing those who may be at risk for postpartum depression may help mothers and their families prepare for any symptoms that signal this mental illness. With preparation and support, women can find an easier way to healing and keep themselves and their babies safer from harm. There are multiple situations that may put a woman at risk for postpartum depression.


Women who have a previous history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Bipolar can be especially risky. Women who have bipolar disorder have three times a greater chance of developing postpartum psychosis than other women. Postpartum psychosis can cause mothers to purposefully injure their child.

Previous Loss

Sometimes bad experiences before pregnancy or during pregnancy may stir the symptoms of postpartum depression. If a woman has lost her husband, a close family member, or a dear friend, that personal loss may already be putting them at risk for depression. Loss of a job by either herself or her husband may bring financial strain and anxiety of providing for a new child in the family and may overshadow the joy of a new baby. Even life changes can fill a person with a sense of loss that may grow stronger later; moving to a different residence, losing a pet, or set-backs in a career.

Complications During and After Pregnancy

Not all women feel the “healthy glow” of pregnancy. Some feel physically ill beyond the first trimester and throughout the entire nine months. Others have anxieties that their child may be born with special needs. Unexpected situations during the actual birth, like an emergency C-section, a very long and mentally or physically painful labor, or any life-threatening situations can provoke postpartum depression. When a child must be immediately attended to for any medical reasons or may be born with an illness or disorder, this also raises the risk for postpartum depression.

Going it Alone

Raising a child alone is a challenging task. Those who have an unplanned pregnancy may be feeling the weight of raising a child without a father, while those who are married may not feel support from their husband. Those who are alone will need extra support, both mentally and physically, in helping in the first few weeks after birth. Women do not need to suffer through postpartum depression alone. Preparing the baby’s nursery is not the only preparation a family should be doing. Looking at the risks for postpartum depression may help make the first few weeks after delivery a more joyous and manageable time for the entire family.

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