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How Postpartum Depression Affects New Mothers: Ways to Overcome

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14 mins,
Health writer | Editor | Public Health Researcher
Postpartum depression

Medically reviewed by Dr Imaeka Ukpe

Postpartum depression (PPD), also known as postnatal depression is a depressive symptom that lasts more than 2 weeks after delivery and interferes with activities of daily living. Put simply, it refers to a form of deep sadness, anxiety and moodiness that occurs after childbirth.

key Points

  • Postpartum depression (PPD), also known as postnatal depression, is a depressive symptom that lasts more than 2 weeks after delivery and interferes with activities of daily living.
  • Medically, the exact cause of postpartum depression is not known. However, it has been noted that the following could trigger postpartum depression in new mothers: prior depression, hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, genetic susceptibility, and significant life stressors.
  • The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression are: extreme sadness, mood swing, and disinterest in the baby; loss of appetite; guilt; and insomnia.
  • A diagnosis of postpartum depression is based on a clinical evaluation of symptoms or, sometimes, formal depression scales.
  • It can be difficult for a new mum to admit that she is passing through postpartum depression, either because of ignorance or the fear of being judged. Having social and emotional support from the partner can help new mothers deal with postpartum depression.
Causes of postpartum depression
Source: Pexels

It is quite different from “baby blues” because even though symptoms are similar, baby blues are mostly temporary and often require no treatment. On the other hand, postpartum depression, when left untreated, can lead to more damage to the mental health of new mothers making them want to harm themselves or their babies.

Postpartum depression is real. So, if you have experienced it or still in the limbo of it, you are not alone. For any consolation, statistics show that postpartum depression occurs in 10-15% of mothers and the risk of recurrence ranges from 25-50%.

Sadly, in Africa, many women who go through this do not know that they are depressed, and the few ones that are aware of their situation do not seek the requisite help that they deserve.

The question on your mind will likely be along the lines of: How come postpartum depression awareness is not often talked about in this part of the globe?

The fact is that, in many developing countries like Nigeria, childbearing has a vital societal value and is often regarded as what makes a woman complete, thus they are expected to appreciate the gift of a child and focus only on the joys of motherhood.

Birthing a child is welcomed with ecstasy, making it almost impossible to talk about the mixed feelings (and postpartum depression) some new mothers experience.

How does giving birth affect your mental health?

Groundnuts 88

Medically, the exact cause of postpartum depression is not known. However, it has been noted that the following could trigger postpartum depression in new mothers:

prior depression or mood disorders: Studies show that most women who have had depression in the past or battled with mental health and mood disorders usually experience postnatal depression. 

hormonal changes: The entire nine months of pregnancy is not an easy journey for a lot of mothers especially in terms of hormonal changes. For example, the levels of progesterone and estrogen go up during pregnancy, then drops down almost immediately after child delivery. This sudden change can send mixed signals to the brain, making the new mother depressed.

sleep deprivation that often comes with tending to a newborn: The excitement is finally over. Usually, a week to two weeks after childbirth, some women get over the euphoria that comes with bringing a child to the world as they now have to pay more attention to caring for the newborn at every point in time, including midnights. Not having enough sleep, coupled with the transition from pregnancy to motherhood can be nerve cracking to the woman, leading to postpartum depression.

genetic susceptibility: If the new mother has a family history of depression or mood disorders, the gene can likely cause her to experience postpartum depression.

significant life stressors:  Emotional stress emanating from life situation of the new mother can lead to postpartum depression. Juggling the care of a newborn by battling emotionally threatening issues like marital conflict, unemployment, poverty,  physical changes in the body like stretch marks, big tummy, painful breasts, dull complexion, etc

Other likely causes also include psychological adjustment, lack of social support from partner or family members, unwanted pregnancy, sick infant,  prior or current poor obstetric outcomes (like previous miscarriage, preterm delivery,  infant with congenital malformation, baby blues ( such as rapid mood swings , irritability, anxiety, decreased concentration, insomnia, crying spells).

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression

Signs of depression
Source: Pexels

The most noticeable symptoms of postpartum depression, just like those of major depression may include:

Extreme sadness

Mood swings

Uncontrollable crying

Anxiety or panic attacks 

Insomnia or increased sleep

Extreme fatigue


Unrealistic worries and hopelessness

Disinterest in the baby

Loss of appetite or overeating

In worse case scenarios, one may experience;

Irritability, violence or anger


Fear of harming the baby

Suicidal ideation

Typically, these symptoms may affect the new mother for 2 – 6 months but can last up to 1 year when untreated. In cases where the symptoms are serious, immediate medical help is needed. If you notice some of these symptoms in yourself or a new mother around, Speak to a Doctor for immediate assistance.

Diagnosing Postpartum Depression

Diagnosing postpartum depression
Source: Pexels

A diagnosis of postpartum depression is based on clinical evaluation for symptoms or sometimes formal depression scales. Because of ignorance, as well as cultural and social factors in Africa, many women may not voluntarily seek professional help when they experience signs of postpartum depression.

So, it is imperative that health care providers follow new mothers up on their feelings and psychological states before and after delivery. Screening new mothers during postpartum clinical visits using a validated screening tool such as Edinburg Postnatal Screening Tool and postpartum depression screening scale will help a great deal in curbing the prevalence of postpartum depression.

The Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale is a 10 -item, self-rated questionnaire used extensively for detection of postpartum depression. A score of 10 or more or an affirmative answer on question 10 (presence of suicidal thoughts) requires more thorough evaluation.

We have provided in this article, the DSM-IV criteria for detecting major depressive episode to help you self-evaluate yours symptoms and know when to Talk to a Doctor:

Greater than or equal to 5 of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2 weeks period;

  1. Experiencing depressed mood everyday
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities most of the day
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or increased appetite nearly everyday
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly everyday
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive inappropriate guilt nearly everyday
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness nearly every day
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying)
  10. Recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan or a suicidal attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Like earlier stated, if a new mother experiences 5 and above of the symptoms listed above and is not under the influence of drugs or substance abuse nor is she bereaved, then the best point of call is to Speak to a Healthcare Professional.

Dealing with Postpartum Depression

Dealing with postpartum depression
Source: Pexels

It can be difficult for a new mum to admit that she is passing through postpartum depression either because of ignorance or the fear of being judged. However, acknowledging that one is depressed and truly needs help is the first step to effectively dealing with postpartum depression.

Being surrounded by loved ones and an understanding partner as  social and emotional support systems at this vulnerable time can go a long way to help treat symptoms of postpartum depression.

Depending on whether symptoms are mild, moderate or severe, the doctor can recommend appropriate treatment options for the new mother. Some of these treatments may include but not limited to:

Psychotherapy (speaking to a therapist): For mild to moderate depressive symptoms, individual or group psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral and interpersonal therapy are effective. Other helpful psychotherapies are getting involved in psychoeducational or support groups.

Pharmacotherapy (using antidepressants): If a woman has significant anxiety she may be treated with anxiolytics like clonazepam. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are first line agents (e.g fluoxetine, sertraline). Others include serotonin/nor epinephrine reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, and brexanolone. Pharmacologic strategies are indicated for moderate to severe depressive symptoms or when a woman’s condition does not respond to non-pharmacologic treatment.

Electroconvulsive therapy (applying electric current to the brain to quickly reverse symptoms of severe depression): Inpatient hospitalization may be necessary for severe postpartum depression. A consideration is electroconvulsive therapy which is rapid, safe and effective for women with severe postpartum depression especially those with active suicidal ideation.

Exercise therapy, light therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and omega 3 fatty acid supplementation have also shown to improve the symptoms of postpartum depression and are beneficial in effective treatments.

Possible Outcomes of Postpartum Depression for the Baby:

Family dealing with postpartum depression
Source: Pexels

As a condition, postpartum depression is not to be taken for granted as its effects are not only on the mother but also the child. For the new mum, postpartum depression negatively interferes with her ability to care for herself and the baby adequately.

New mothers may not properly bond with their infant, resulting in emotional, social and cognitive problems in the life of the child in the future.

It is important that prompt treatment is given to the new mother as allowing the symptoms to persist may further impact on the development of the child development, resulting in increased risk of cognitive delay, insecure attachment, and behavioral disorders. 

The fathers are not exempted. If left untreated, postpartum depression can affect the father’s psychological and emotional health. Fathers are at increased risk of depression and marital stress. Treatment of mother improves outcome for everyone, especially the innocent child who is solely dependent on mother–child interaction to develop well.

Postpartum depression is not a weakness but a real medical condition, and it should be treated as such.  You are not a bad mother for feeling the way you do, and it does not mean that you hate your baby. You simply need the right care and help to go through the phase. Getting prompt medical attention is the best step to take to manage symptoms and faster recovery.

Did you find this article helpful? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comment section. This is a safe place to talk about how you feel with no judgment.

How telemedicine can help

One of the world’s most frequent types of depression is postpartum depression, which affects women globally post-delivery at a very high rate. Time, money, and childcare worries are just a few of the obstacles that prevent women from accessing postpartum depression treatment, despite the fact that there are treatments available. Considering the obstacles to assessing treatment, telemedicine therapies bridge the gap between you and healthcare experts like a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist.

Telemedicine offers on the Kompletecare platform give you the means of preventing and treating postpartum depression. Telemedicine has made it easy, just from the comfort of your home; through telecommunication devices, you can get all the services you need. You neither need to queue on a waiting line nor have to travel away from home or with your new-born baby to get medical advice about your health.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are some ways to prevent postpartum depression and formulate an intervention?

Postpartum depression affects new mothers, and here is how to prevent it:

  • Positive parenting techniques (emotional bonding with your child).
  • Promotion and strengthening of the mother-infant attachment.
  • Family and medical professionals can provide social support.
  • Have adequate sleep.
  • Observe yourself with attention.
  • Bring back exercise gradually.
  • Establish a network of support.
  • Try taking drugs and therapy.

2. How do I overcome this after delivery?

New mothers can adopt the recovery procedure after delivery listed below:

  • Get eight to ten glasses of water a day.
  • Anticipate vaginal discharge.
  • Avoid stairs and lifting until your doctor clears you to resume these activities.
  • Wait to swim or take a bath until the doctor gives the all-clear.
  • Wait to drive until your doctor gives the all-clear.
  • Contact your doctor if the wound starts to swell or turn red.

3. How common is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is a prevalent issue. Within a year of giving birth, one in eight new moms reports having experienced symptoms of postpartum depression.

4. How do I know if I have postpartum depression?

Depression-like symptoms might arise from some typical postpartum changes. The arrival of a new baby often leaves many mothers feeling overwhelmed. However, contact your physician, nurse, or midwife if any of the following depressive symptoms persist for longer than two weeks:

  • Being irate or irritable.
  • Sad or forlorn feelings.
  • Feeling unworthy, guilty, or ashamed.
  • Eating in excess or insufficiently.
  • Getting more or less sleep than normal.
  • Unusual melancholy or crying.
  • Loss of enthusiasm, delight, or satisfaction in something you formerly enjoyed.
  • Removing oneself from friends and family.
  • Suspicion of hurting yourself or the infant

Some new mothers choose not to disclose their symptoms to others. When it comes to feeling unhappy when they should be joyful, new mothers may experience feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, or guilt. They can also be concerned about being viewed as horrible moms.

Any woman can experience postpartum depression or experience depression while pregnant. You are not a horrible mother as a result. One need not endure suffering. Assistance is available. Your doctor can assist you in determining if depression or another condition is the source of your symptoms.

5. Are some women more at risk of postpartum depression?

Yes, postpartum depression may be more likely to occur if you:

  • Had depression either prior to or during pregnancy.
  • Possess a family history of depression.
  • I suffered mistreatment or hardship as a youngster.
  • Experienced a rough or traumatic birth.
  • Had issues during a prior pregnancy or delivery.
  • Have minimal or non-existent assistance from friends, family, or partners.
  • If you are experiencing domestic abuse now or in the past.
  • Have financial difficulties, relationship issues, or go through other trying times in life.
  • Are younger than twenty years old.
  • Find it difficult to breastfeed.
  • Having a prematurely born child or one who requires special medical attention
  • Conceived without intending to

It is advised that, irrespective of a woman’s risk of depression, doctors search for and inquire about depressive symptoms both during and after pregnancy.

6. What can happen if postpartum depression is not treated?

Your capacity to parent may suffer if postpartum depression is left untreated. You could:

  • Experience insufficient strength.
  • Find it difficult to prioritize your demands and the requirements of the baby.
  • Feel gloomy.
  • Unable to provide for your child.
  • Having a higher chance of making an attempt at suicide

According to researchers, a mother’s postpartum depression may have an impact on her child’s healthy development, which may result in:

  • Language development delays and learning difficulties.
  • Issues relating to mother-child attachment.
  • Behavioral issues
  • Increased sobbing or restlessness
  • Reduced height and increased likelihood of obesity among pre-schoolers
  • Difficulties managing stress and integrating into the classroom and other social contexts.

7. What is the difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression?

After giving birth, many women experience the postpartum blues. If you are feeling down, you could:

  • Have erratic moods.
  • Feel depressed, nervous, or overpowered.
  • Have fits of sobbing.
  • Having difficulty falling asleep.

Usually, the baby blues pass after a few days. Postpartum depression symptoms are more severe, persist longer, and may necessitate medical attention. Typically, postpartum depression sets in within the first month following delivery.


Ben-Joseph, E. P. (2024). Recovering from delivery.

Hanach, n., de Vries, N., Radwan, H., & Bissani, N. (2021). The effectiveness of telemedicine interventions, delivered exclusively during the postnatal period, on postpartum depression in mothers without history or existing mental disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Mughal, S., Azhar, Y., & Siddiqui, W. (2022). Postpartum depression.

Nichols, H. (2017). Life hacks: Dealing with postpartum depression.

Oash. (2023). Postpartum depression.

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1 comment

March 27, 2023 - 2:40 pm

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Ginika Oluchi Okeke

Ginika is the Lead health writer at KompleteCare. She also doubles as an editor and proofreader for everything that concerns content. When she's not writing content for KompleteCare, you might find her copy-editing works for authors before publication.

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