Post-partum depression plagues many mothers

Post-partum depression plagues many mothers

The birth of a baby usually evokes feelings of hope for the future. But about 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers experience depression, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.

Some emotional challenges are normal during pregnancy and shortly thereafter because of changes in brain chemistry caused by changes in hormones. When a woman becomes pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone increase.

For most women, hormone levels return to normal within 24 hours of childbirth. However, researchers believe the big change in hormone levels may lead to depression in some women, similar to the way smaller hormone changes can affect a woman's moods before she menstruates.

In some women, levels of thyroid hormones may also drop following delivery, causing symptoms of depression. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that helps regulate the body’s storage and usage of energy from food. A simple blood test can isolate this as a possible cause, allowing a doctor to prescribe thyroid medicine, if necessary.

Some factors, such as a family history of depression or mental illness; lack of support from family and friends; or stressful life events, including marital problems, money problems or anxiety over previous pregnancy problems also increase the risk of post-partum depression. Women who are depressed during pregnancy have a greater risk of depression after giving birth.

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