Postpartum Depression: Early Symptoms, Treatment, Global Impact and Early Detection [Infographic]
Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Postpartum depression, also known as PPD, is a clinical condition wherein pregnant or new mothers experience minor or major depression during pregnancy or up to one year after childbirth. It is a detrimental health condition affecting 12% of new mothers.
What are the causes of postpartum depression?
This condition may arise from physiological, or biological factors. A few of the well-known biological factors are hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation, inflammatory processes, genetic vulnerability and allopregnanolone withdrawal. The psychosocial factors include previous depression, severe life events, some form of chronic stress and relationship struggles. A longitudinal study in low and middle-income countries has shown that PPD is associated with adverse psychological outcomes in children up to 10 years later.
Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression
Some of the common symptoms experienced in PPD include:
Persistent sad, anxious mood
Sense of hopelessness, guilt
Loss of interest in hobbies
Loss of concentration
Trouble in bonding with the newly born baby
Constant doubts about the ability to care for the new baby
Thoughts of suicide or harming oneself or the new baby
Postpartum depression across the globe
Between 2012 and 2016, the global mean prevalence for PPD was reported between 15% and 25%. Reports identify postpartum depression rates to be 10.15% in Norway, 8 to 10% in the Netherlands, 3.9 to 17.6% in Portugal, 8 to 12.3% in Sweden 8 to 15% in the United States. The few existing studies estimate the magnitude to be 15 to 25% in Africa.
According to the literature, the burden of perinatal mental health disorders, including PPD, is high in low and lower-middle-income countries. A systematic review of 47 studies in 18 countries reported a prevalence of 18.6%. Scarcity of available mental health resources, inequities in their distribution and inefficiencies in their utilization are key obstacles to optimal mental health, especially in lower resource countries.
As an example, Despite the launch of India’s national mental health program in 1982, maternal mental health is still not a prominent component of the program. Dedicated maternal mental health services are largely deficient in healthcare facilities, and health workers lack mental health training. The availability of mental health specialists is limited or non-existent in peripheral healthcare facilities. Furthermore, there is currently no screening tool designated for use in clinical practice and no data are routinely collected on the proportion of perinatal women with postpartum depression.
Treatment for postpartum depression
It is always recommended to initiate treatment at the early stages of PPD-like symptoms. Treating PPD can benefit parents' and newborn babies' mental and physical well-being. Treatments that may be considered include:
Moderate symptoms occurring during PPD such as mild depression can be treated with psychotherapy including Cognitive-Behavioral Tests (CBT). Interpersonal therapy can also prove to be an effective solution.
For severe and persistent PPD-like symptoms medications can be prescribed based on doctor’s consultation. While medications can help restore hormonal imbalance it is important to understand any potential risks and side effects to mother, baby and/or breast milk. Hence, it is highly advised to consult a doctor before initiating any medications.
At CognitiveCare, we have built an artificial intelligence platform to predict PPD early in pregnancy. It utilizes all the major social, biological and psychological factors responsible for PPD. Early detection helps identify the maternal population at risk and thereby prevent it through early and personalized intervention.
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