Postpartum Depression Causes

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

Having a new baby is an incredibly emotional period of time. It’s filled with joy and excitement, but it can also cause fear, anxiety, and depression. After all, babies are hard work—especially in their first few months. For new parents, it’s normal to worry about taking care of your new baby and learning how to keep them healthy and happy. Unfortunately, those negative feelings can sometimes lead to postpartum depression in new moms. 

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a specific type of depression that occurs in women shortly after giving birth. The mildest form of postpartum depression is what’s known as the “baby blues,” which are the immediate feelings of exhaustion, mood swings, or anxiety days after giving birth.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, between 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings right after having a baby. But while the “baby blues” tend to last only a few days, the symptoms of more serious postpartum depression can last for months after having a baby. Some of the common postpartum depression symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Crying for no reason
  • Feeling overly anxious
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Doubting your ability to care for your baby
  • Trouble bonding with your baby

Like all forms of depression, postpartum depression varies in severity. For some women, postpartum depression interferes with their daily life. They struggle with basic tasks, and oftentimes, they also have trouble providing adequate care for their baby. Many mothers struggle with postpartum that can be managed with a combination of therapies.

Research on Postpartum Depression

Data shows that postpartum depression is a very common mental health condition in the United States. On average, between 10-20% of new mothers get diagnosed with clinical postpartum depression. One study in particular determined that 1 in 7 women will experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth, which is about 600,000 diagnoses each year.

Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect mothers with healthy babies. The condition is actually more prevalent in women who have miscarried or had a stillbirth. Around 900,000 mothers who face those complications suffer from postpartum depression.

Research also shows that certain people are more likely to get postpartum depression. Women who have been previously diagnosed with depression or anxiety are around 30% more likely to develop postpartum depression. If a woman has experienced postpartum depression in a previous birth, they are 10% more likely to have it again.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

Like all types of depression, mental health professionals haven’t found an exact cause for postpartum depression. Doctors do know that postpartum depression is not caused by something a woman does or doesn’t do. It’s most likely caused by a combination of factors, both physical and emotional.

The main factor in developing postpartum depression has to do with a woman’s hormones after having a baby. During pregnancy, the levels of estrogen and progesterone rise in a woman’s body. After birth, the level of those hormones drops rapidly. It’s believed that the drastic chemical rebalance creates changes in the brain and can lead to mood swings.

Postpartum depression can also be caused by emotional factors. In the first few weeks after having a baby, many mothers aren’t able to get much sleep, due to feeding times, diaper changes, and so on. The consistent sleep deprivation can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and other symptoms associated with postpartum depression.  

Many doctors believe that half of women who develop postpartum depression after birth start experiencing symptoms during their pregnancy. Because of that, it’s important for women to monitor their mental health during pregnancy and be aware of negative feelings that could be early signs of postpartum depression. 

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is highly treatable in most women. About 80% of mothers who seek treatment recover successfully using a combination of therapies. However, only a small fraction of women who have postpartum depression actually seek treatment.

Treating postpartum depression early is one of the keys to making a full recovery. The longer the condition is left untreated, the more difficult the recovery process becomes. Even though life as a new mother is hectic, it’s important for women to seek mental health treatment if they are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression.

There are several main forms of treatment for depression, including antidepressants, talk therapy, and alternative therapies, like Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Here is some information about each one:


Medication is one of the most effective ways to manage symptoms of  depression. In moderate to severe cases of postpartum depression, a mental health professional will probably prescribe an antidepressant. However, medication alone won’t solve the condition at its core, so it’s best used as part of a more holistic treatment program.

Talk Therapy:

Talk therapy is an important part of the postpartum depression treatment process. A therapist will talk to the mother about her feelings and emotions, and work to uncover the underlying causes of the condition. Depression is often caused by deeply rooted feelings and beliefs that have built up over many years, so discussing past experiences or traumas is often a crucial part of the healing process.

TMS Therapy:

TMS therapy is another effective treatment for postpartum depression. TMS involves using magnetic waves to stimulate areas of the brain that regulate mood. It’s a non-invasive procedure that takes about 18 minutes and doesn’t require anesthesia. TMS is particularly useful in women who have postpartum depression that has not responded well to other forms of treatment.

If you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression, our TMS treatment services at Pulse can help. Although TMS is non-invasive, we recommend speaking to your doctor first to learn if TMS is right for you. TMS is safe while breastfeeding, there is no downtime after treatment, and the side effects are minimal. Contact a member of our team today to schedule a consultation.