In each of my three pregnancies, I’ve been advised by the doctor or midwife that I am likely to suffer from postpartum depression after delivery. What made them so sure? For me, my history of major depression was the clue. There are, in fact, a handful of markers that doctors and midwives may look for during your prenatal care that can indicate that you’re at risk to suffer from postpartum depression.
Previous/Familial Mental Health Issues
According to the Wisconsin Association for Perinatal Care, a “prior history of depression, anxiety, or other mental illness, especially during a previous pregnancy or postpartum, and a family history of mood or anxiety disorders are significant risk factors.” So for someone like me, who has both a personal and a family history of depression and anxiety, it’s important to be cognizant of my mental health both during pregnancy and after delivery in order to catch signs of postpartum depression in their early stages. If you haven’t disclosed any history or mental illness to your healthcare practitioner, now’s the time to do it.
WebMD notes that your age at the time of the pregnancy, the support you have (in addition to any marital conflict or your living status), and the number of other children that you have may all be risk factors for postpartum depression. It makes sense–a large number of children, inadequate support, and marital discord may all lead to increased stress. Add in that you aren’t getting enough sleep or time when you have a newborn, and your hormones may be a bit out of whack, and postpartum depression seems more probable.
Additional Social or Familial Stressors
There are a variety of other factors that may increase your risk for postpartum depression. A move overseas, for example, was just one factor that exacerbated my pre-existing depression and lead to severe postpartum depression. Changing jobs, quitting your job or the decision to stay home, or even concern about your parenting ability can all add to your stress level, increase anxiety, and serve as early warning signs of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can impact how you handle yourself after delivery, as well as how you relate to your newborn, your spouse, and your other children. For many women, postpartum depression can be a debilitating disease. Therefore, if you suspect that you may be at risk for postpartum depression, it’s important to discuss any early warning signs and risk factors with your doctor or midwife early in your pregnancy, so that you can both be on the lookout for symptoms of depression.
Mercy Healthcare Plans; Screening for Prenatal and Postpartum Depression; http://www.mercycarehealthplans.com/ace-files/Clinical%20Guidelines/screening_perinatal_postpartum.pdf
WebMD; Postpartum Depression; http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/postpartum-depression