Risk Factors For Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common mood disorder that affects a significant number of new mothers. According to PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia, 1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 20 fathers experience postnatal depression in Australia. It is crucial to note that the risk factors for PPD are numerous and complex, and having one or more of these factors does not mean an individual will develop PPD. Here are some of the risk factors that contribute to PPD:

History of Depression, Anxiety and Other Mental Health Conditions

A history of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can increase the risk of developing PPD. Women who experience depression or anxiety during pregnancy are also at a higher risk of PPD. Moreover, if you have experienced depression after giving birth to a previous child, you have a greater chance of developing PPD after having another child.

Lack of Social Support and Stressful Life Events

The arrival of a new baby can be overwhelming, and it’s essential to have a strong support system to help manage the physical, emotional, and mental changes that come with becoming a parent. The lack of social support and stressful life events, such as financial difficulties and relationship problems, can increase the risk of developing PPD.

Hormonal Changes

The sudden changes in hormones during pregnancy and postpartum can affect the brain’s chemistry and increase the risk of PPD. Moreover, women who experience a difficult birth or have health complications during or after pregnancy may be at a higher risk of PPD.

Poor Sleep Quality and Sleep Deprivation

Nighttime feedings and constant sleep disruptions are common among new mothers, and the lack of sleep can exacerbate symptoms of PPD or increase the risk of developing the condition.

Substance Abuse and Smoking

Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug use, can increase the risk of developing PPD. Moreover, smoking during pregnancy and postpartum can negatively affect the baby’s health, increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, and contribute to PPD.

Age and Other Demographic Factors

Young mothers and older mothers, particularly those aged over 35, may be at a higher risk of PPD. Women who are single, have a low socioeconomic status, are unemployed or have difficulty breastfeeding may also be at an increased risk.

The Importance of Seeking Help

It’s essential to note that PPD is a treatable condition, and it’s crucial to seek professional help if you suspect that you may have PPD. Symptoms of PPD may include changes in mood or appetite, persistent feelings of sadness, guilt or hopelessness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, disrupted sleep patterns and changes in physical activity.

There are several treatment options available for PPD, including therapy, support groups, medication, and lifestyle changes. Talking openly with a trusted health professional, such as a GP, psychologist or psychiatrist, about your symptoms and concerns can help you find the right treatment plan.


Postpartum depression is a common condition that affects new mothers, and it’s crucial to be aware of the risk factors that contribute to the condition. A strong support system, self-care, and seeking professional help can go a long way in managing symptoms of PPD and improving your overall wellbeing. Remember that PPD is treatable, and there is support available to help you through this challenging time.


FAQs about Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression

1. What are the risk factors for postpartum depression?

The risk factors for postpartum depression include a history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, lack of social support, financial stress, difficult or traumatic birth, relationships difficulties with partner or family, and a lack of sleep.

2. Can postpartum depression be prevented?

While postpartum depression cannot be prevented entirely, taking care of yourself both physically and mentally during pregnancy and after giving birth can help reduce your risk. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and staying active. It’s also important to seek support from loved ones and healthcare professionals if you start to feel overwhelmed or experience symptoms of depression.

3. What should I do if I think I have postpartum depression?

If you think you may have postpartum depression, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare professional. Your doctor or midwife can provide a diagnosis and refer you to appropriate treatment, which may include counseling or medication. It’s also important to let your loved ones know how you’re feeling and ask for support.


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3. Yim, I. S., Tanner Stapleton, L. R., Guardino, C. M., Hahn-Holbrook, J., Dunkel Schetter, C., & Judd, C. M. (2015). Biological and psychosocial predictors of postpartum depression: systematic review and call for integration. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 11, 99-137. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-101414-020426