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Postpartum Depression in Women and Men

What causes depression? What about postpartum depression?

There is no single cause. Rather, depression likely results from a combination of factors:

  • Depression is a mental illness that tends to run in families. Women with a family history of depression are more likely to have depression.

  • Changes in brain chemistry or structure are believed to play a big role in depression.

  • Stressful life events, such as death of a loved one, caring for an aging family member, abuse, and poverty, can trigger depression.

  • Hormonal factors unique to women may contribute to depression in some women. We know that hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. We also know that women are at greater risk of depression at certain times in their lives, such as puberty, during and after pregnancy, and during perimenopause. Some women also have depressive symptoms right before their period.


Postpartum Depression in Women
Depression after childbirth is called postpartum depression. Hormonal changes may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone increase greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, hormone levels quickly return to normal. Researchers think the big change in hormone levels may lead to depression. This is much like the way smaller hormone changes can affect a woman’s moods before she gets her period.
Other factors may play a role in postpartum depression. You may feel:

  • Tired after delivery

  • Tired from a lack of sleep or broken sleep

  • Overwhelmed with a new baby

  • Doubts about your ability to be a good mother

  • Stress from changes in work and home routines

  • An unrealistic need to be a perfect mom

  • Loss of who you were before having the baby

  • Less attractive

  • A lack of free time

Postpartum Depression in Men

We don’t know the exact prevalence of male postpartum depression; studies have used different methods and diagnostic criteria. Dr. Paul G. Ramchandani, a psychiatrist at the University of Oxford in England who did a study based on 26,000 parents, reported in The Lancet in 2005 that 4 percent of fathers had clinically significant depressive symptoms within eight weeks of the birth of their children.
The postpartum period is a time of significant change and many men have not learned the requisite coping skills to successfully navigate these changes. Becoming a father requires that men learn new emotional and relational skills. Challenges that men encounter in the postpartum period include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or scared about the demands of fatherhood

  • Stress from changes in work and home routines

  • Coping with receiving less time and attention from their partner

  • Changes in their partner's appearance and interest in sexual activity

  • A lack of free time

  • Disagreements about parenting or relationship issues

How I can help

I offer individual, couples, and group therapy for postpartum depression in women and men.