Postpartum Depression


Defining Postpartum Depression

When a couple finds out they are expecting, it can be one of the greatest news they receive. They patiently wait months for the new member of their family to arrive. During the time a woman is pregnant, she may experience several emotional changes. When the baby is finally born, it all seems to go as they expected. Even though a newborn can bring so much joy to their parents, there is a possibility postpartum depression can develop in both parents.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 as a major depressive episode “with peripartum onset if onset of mood symptoms occurs during pregnancy or within 4 weeks following delivery” (Rai et al., 2015; American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Nonetheless, a depressive episode that initiates later than four weeks after delivery or does not meet the full criteria for a major depressive episode could still cause detrimental consequences not only on the mother but also for the mother’s children and family (Stewart & Vigod, 2016). These risks increase when PPD remains untreated after childbirth. The most severe adverse outcomes of PPD include increased risk of marital disruption and divorce, child abuse and neglect, and even maternal suicide or infanticide (McCoy, 2011).


The national and state statistics reveal that:

  • In the U.S., 1 in every 9 women experience postpartum depression (CDC, 2017).
  • Worldwide, rates of PPD range from 6.5 percent to 12.9 percent with lower rates seen in lower SES countries (Stewart & Vigod, 2016).
  • In Texas, about 14 percent of women experience PPD (America’s Health Ranking Analysis of CDC et al., 2019).
  • In the U.S., 50 percent of the women diagnosed with PPD have had a previous history of depression (APA, 2017).
  • In the U.S., 50 percent of the women experienced symptoms of depression during pregnancy (APA, 2017).
  • About 20 percent of women experience symptoms six months after childbirth (De Bartoli et al., 2013).

Although most commonly among women, PPD can also occur in men.

As per the Centers for Disease Control,

  • About 4 percent of men experience PPD after the birth of first child
  • 1 in every 5 men experience depression by the time the first child is 12 years old
  • Previous history depression and financial stress are risk factors to PPD among men


The National Institute of Mental Health identify additional symptoms a woman may experience that include:

  • Feeling sad, fatigued, or hopeless
  • Experiencing sleep problems even as the baby is asleep
  • Doubting one’s own ability to care for the baby
  • Difficulties bonding with the baby
  • Thinking about harming the baby


There has not been a clear, established explanation for PPD. Nonetheless, numerous theories have been suggested etiological risk factors. Following childbirth, mothers tend to suffer a decline of their estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormone levels. Studies have demonstrated that such a drastic drop may contribute as a triggering factor for PPD, since its low levels have been longly related to depressive symptomatology.

Additionally, studies considering the social and environmental variables contributing to a PPD diagnosis have been highly suggested. Prevalent factors include poor or lack of social support, poor socioeconomic status, marital difficulties, poverty, and young maternal age.

The most powerful risk factors for PPD are a previous history of mood and anxiety problems as well as untreated depression and anxiety during the prenatal period (Stewart & Vigod, 2016).

Furthermore, fathers can also experience similar symptoms like mothers with PPD. According to Mayo Clinic, “Fathers who are young, have a history of depression, experience relationship problems or are struggling financially are most at risk of postpartum depression” (Mayo Clinic, 2019).


Forms of treatment for PPD can include counseling and/or medication in some cases. Individual psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and intrapersonal therapy, have been effective in treating PPD, as per the National Institutes of Mental Health. Also, some hospitals provide support groups for new mothers.

For the Public

Although postpartum depression can affect parents negatively, there a number of organizations available to help out. Some of the organizations include Postpartum Support International (SPI), Postpartum Health Alliance, and Wings for Wellness. It can also be helpful to seek services from a mental health professional in the community.


Postpartum Support International

Talk to Someone (Disponible en Español): 1-800-944-4773

SPI Text: 503-894-9453 (24 hours)

Postpartum Health Alliance

Talk to Someone (Disponible en Español): 619-254-0023

(Co-authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Stephanie Arellano, Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Andy Torres, Jose Garcia, Paola Salazar, Maria Sevilla-Matos and Veronica Ramirez.)