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Postpartum Depression Risk Factors

Updated: Oct 23, 2022

Indicators that There is Potential of Onset of Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety

...and would deem preventative measures and psychotherapy a wonderful measure!

One of the greatest fears that expecting mothers express is getting postpartum depression (PPD) or anxiety (PPA) upon giving birth. This could be because they've heard about it in the media, had a friend or acquaintance go through it, or because it may, in fact, run in the family.

For the most part, you will hear that PPD and PPA are not preventable. Even medical, evidence-based organizations still posit that there is no way to safeguard against the possibility of getting this mood disorder. And while it is mainly based on physical changes and hormonal imbalances, which are not preventable, there are in fact things we can do in order to alleviate the chances if we are aware of the risk factors involved.

The list below comprises of factors that may lead to higher chances of developing postpartum depression and/or anxiety. This includes:

1. those you cannot escape (e.g. a genetic predisposition), and

2. those that can be avoided (e.g. nutritional choices in pregnancy)

It is critical that we are aware of these factors, instead of avoiding them in fear of feeling helpless, so that if developing PPD/PPA is a higher possibility for us, we can consider, i) in the former case, seeing a therapist before it ever surfaces; meaning not only if we suspect we have symptoms once the baby is born but whilst still pregnant, and ii) in the later, altering some lifestyle choices.
i) Risk Factors - non-preventable

a. Previous personal history of mental health disorders, especially depression and/or anxiety, has been shown to correlate with a higher onset of postpartum depression and/or anxiety respectively. This is due to the body's susceptibility to hormonal imbalance in stressful situations (where "stressful" refers to any circumstance that results in us experiencing drastic changes in the practical or the emotional realm).

b. Genetic predisposition to postpartum depression/anxiety if it runs in the mothers of either family is suggested to raise the chances of a woman showing PPD/PPA upon giving birth. c. The onset of depression or high levels of anxiety during a woman's pregnancy are linked to a higher percentage of postpartum depression and anxiety as well.

d. Having a stressful pregnancy can also raise the chances of the onset of PPD/PPA. This can be true when a pregnancy is unwanted, when it is high risk, if there were previous miscarriages that lead to increased anxiety, or it comes at a time of uncertainty in the realms of the expecting mother's employment, financial stability, relationship status, social support system, etc.

e. Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is also linked with PPD/PPA as it influences hormones such as serotonin and tryptophan.

f. Complications during labor, including having umbilical cord prolapse, hemorrhaging, and experiencing meconium passage, as well as birthing a baby under 1.5kg, may result in up to 18 times higher chances of becoming depressed.

g. Having trouble sleeping whilst pregnant can also be an indicator of postpartum depression, as sleep deprivation has been shown to influence a person both physically (through hormonal imbalances) as well as psychologically.

h. Postpartum depression and anxiety are also more prevalent in women whose birthing plans do not go as intended; that is, their expectations are not met.

i. Meanwhile, there are several hormonal imbalances that have a direct effect in the onset of PPD/PPA. These include, low levels of serotonin, tryptophan, estrogen, as well as corticotropin-releasing hormone.

j. Medical conditions such as low hemoglobin concentration or homocysteinemia after delivery, and disorders in the metabolizing of glucose and thyroid dysfunction during pregnancy have also been linked to PPD/PPA.

ii) Risk Factors - preventable

Then there are those factors that are preventable. Below you will find a quick list but you can read more on the HOW you can prevent these factors in this article.

k. Poor dietary choices

l. Poor vitamins and micronutrients

m. Lack of Exercise

n. Lack of Sleep o. Insufficient support system


If you feel like you may present some of these risk factors and want to reduce the possibility that you may experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety,

...but most importantly, speak with a mental health professional so that he/she can more accurately guide you. Your psychological wellbeing is the most fundamental gift you will ever give your baby, remember that!


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