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Everything You Should Know About Postpartum Depression

How to build awareness for and navigate this widely undiagnosed condition.

Everything You Should Know About Postpartum Depression

In honor of women’s mental health awareness month, we wanted to discuss another historically overlooked mental health issue many women will face over their lifetimes. Enter: postpartum depression.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a condition that 1 in 7 new mothers may experience anywhere from a few weeks to a full year after they give birth. It’s a serious condition that can inhibit a new mother’s ability to function fully, often preventing her from bonding with her newborn. This can negatively affect the baby’s health and wellbeing.

One would think that such an urgent condition would require drastic intervention—however, historically, the medical world has downplayed the signs of postpartum depression, often treating it the way they do PMS—something like, “it’s just hormones, they’ll level out.” 

The attitudes and impatience toward a very real (and common!) condition have barred many women from getting help. We’re here to say that postpartum depression deserves attention—and that the causes of PPD are complex, layered, and not from a single source.

A few of the many influences of PPD include:

Hormonal changes

Generally speaking, the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone after birth is what can activate postpartum depression, completely transforming the brain’s chemical balance and triggering big mood swings. Women who have a history of depression and anxiety are at higher risk of developing postpartum depression.

Lack of Support

The extensive care required for a newborn (the brunt of which is physically and societally placed on the mother) can be an isolating, depleting experience. Without enough support from partners, family, and friends, a new mom may develop postpartum depression.

Emotional Stressors

Strained relationships, financial stress, and difficulty bonding with the baby are a few of many emotional stressors that can arrive after giving birth, and would be challenging feats to confront for anyone. 

Physical Stressors

Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor diet, chronic post-birth pain, and the after effects of any complications during the pregnancy can aggravate postpartum symptoms.

Why has postpartum depression been so historically misunderstood?

Mental health issues like PPD have always been viewed with less urgency than other health issues. While that paradigm is currently changing, it’s important to understand why such a serious condition would be so regularly ignored, so that awareness can be cultivated.

Underdiagnosis of Symptoms

Healthcare providers may underestimate the symptoms of PPD, since fatigue, mood swings, and lack of appetite or sleep can overlap with other mood disorders. Sometimes, these symptoms are also mistaken as “baby blues”—a normal and less severe fluctuation of hormones that every mother will experience at the end of her pregnancy. An accurate diagnosis of postpartum depression is critical for a more effective intervention of it.


New mothers sometimes don’t report their symptoms of depression because of the pressure they feel to be happy after giving birth.The societal expectation that mothers should feel fulfilled when they bring a baby into the world can prevent women from sharing their experience in fear of seeming like a “bad mother.” This is a huge reason we need to open up the dialogue, in order to understand what “normal” really looks like. 

Lack of PPD Screenings

Many cases of postpartum depression can go undiagnosed simply because standard healthcare practices aren’t systematically set up to perform regular screenings for the condition.


Lack of Training

Since screenings for postpartum depression are not yet standardized in the medical world, that means, on average, there’s not much training provided on how to detect symptoms of PPD in patients. Developing awareness in recognizing the condition is the best way to get ahead of its risks on both the mother and newborn. 

Focus on Baby’s Well-Being

Doctors and healthcare providers tend to prioritize the health of the baby during and after the mother’s pregnancy. This is totally understandable, however, the health of the baby is linked to the health of their caretaker, and if that caretaker is depleted and unwell, it can have a serious impact on the baby.

Barriers to Mental Health Resources

Therapy and access to mental health specialists is expensive and blocks a population of mothers who simply can’t afford that type of support. Since PPD screenings aren’t already stitched into the fabric of healthcare service for new mothers, access to proper support is limited and stacked against many women who need help.

How to Recover from Postpartum Depression

The National Institute of Health says, “individuals with high levels of resilience to stress are more likely to be exempted from depression.”

Luckily, emotional resilience is a skill that everybody is capable of developing. This is not to suggest that it’s easy to do so and that overcoming postpartum depression is a simple task—recovering from PPD is difficult, but it is important to know that there are ways to help develop emotional resilience and tools to help combat the condition.


Sleep is one of the most crucial factors in strengthening emotional resilience and restoring the body. A lot of healing and balancing occurs when we rest or get intervals of deep sleep. All rest is good rest. 


Moving your body every day can go a long way. Whether it’s a walk, low-impact workout, or yoga, integrating light exercise into your routine can help release endorphins to support balanced mood.

Communicate regularly with a doctor

Being in touch with a doctor or therapist and having regular health check-ups provides a sense of continued support and care.

Lean on friends and family

Don’t isolate yourself. Calling on your community and loved ones to surround you and spend time together can feel fulfilling and keep you focused on the present.

Eat mindfully

Balanced, nutritious meals that most effectively support your lifestyle can help you feel better for longer.

Practice positive self-talk

Periods of depression can leave you feeling hopeless and incapable of providing care for your child, let alone yourself. It is crucial during this time to be kind to yourself—even if you have to fake it at first, try to spend a few minutes each day reminding yourself why you’re so great. 

Please, please be patient with yourself and remind yourself that pregnancy and giving birth is a challenging and strange thing, both physically and psychologically. It’s natural that the events involved would leave anyone drained and depleted. Remember that you are a strong, powerful person, a great mom, and that you will make it through this phase.

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