Postpartum depression is a common mental health issue. Beyond those giving birth, it can also affect non-pregnant partners, people who experience miscarriage, and adoptive parents.

Postpartum depression is a type of depression that occurs after giving birth. It is different and generally stronger than “baby blues,” which typically clear within a few days postpartum.

People with postpartum depression experience similar symptoms to those with major depressive disorder and have similar diagnostic criteria. Treatment can help, and many people experience a full recovery.

Postpartum depression is a common occurrence in the weeks and months following giving birth to a baby. Suggested rates of postpartum depression range from 6-20% of all people who give birth.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly 1 in 8 women experienced postpartum depression symptoms shortly after live birth. They compared this to the 1 in 10 women who experienced major depression within the past year, noting the increase in the postpartum population.

They also noted that several factors — including race, location, and age — affect rates of postpartum depression. They provided data indicating the highest and lowest rates by state. Some findings from 2021 include:

  • Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama had the highest reported rates of postpartum depression at 20.8%, 19.7%, and 18.7% respectively.
  • The states with the lowest rates of postpartum depression included Vermont (8.7%) and Delaware (9.7%).
  • The reported average across all recorded areas was 12.7%.

The actual rate may be higher due to underreporting of symptoms and depression.

Researchers and experts have identified several factors that increase your risk of developing postpartum depression. They include:

  • low social support
  • stressful life events
  • being a teenager when giving birth
  • previous history or family history of depression
  • giving birth to multiples (twins, triplets, etc)
  • complications during pregnancy or at birth
  • trouble getting pregnant
  • preterm labor and delivery (before 37 weeks)
  • history or presence of domestic violence or other forms of abuse
  • smoking during pregnancy
  • reluctance based on the baby’s gender
  • lifestyle habits or changes, including eating habits, sleeping issues, or lack of exercise

In non-pregnant partners

Less data is available on how many non-pregnant partners develop or experience postpartum depression. Some experts suggest that postpartum depression in the pregnant partner can trigger depression in the non-pregnant partner due to the stress of the situation.

A 2022 study looked into how becoming a father impacts a person’s health and well-being. They found that about 10% of respondents reported depressive symptoms.

Though the data is too limited to draw any firm conclusions, it does suggest that postpartum depression is about as common in non-pregnant partners as is reported in pregnant partners.

More research is needed to better understand how depression affects non-pregnant partners.

In adoptive parents

Evidence suggests that postpartum depression can also affect adoptive parents, but the reported rates may be more variable.

An older study published in 2011 found that the presence of certain stressors increased the chances of postpartum depression. Stressors noted include:

  • history of infertility
  • less marital satisfaction
  • sleep deprivation
  • past psychological disorder

Another study from 2016 noted a wider range of depression among adoptive parents of 10-32% (compared to 10-15% of birth mothers and fathers). Like previous studies, they noted that several factors put an adoptive parent at risk, such as expectations vs. reality differences and level of social support.

In people who experience a miscarriage

Miscarriage can take a tremendous psychological toll on those who experience it. Sadly, it remains a taboo subject, and people who experience it often feel or find that they have to suffer alone in silence.

Available data suggests rates of postpartum depression similar to those with live births. In one study published in 2019, researchers found that 11% of people who experienced a miscarriage showed depressive symptoms one month following the event. The percentage dropped to 6% nine months following the miscarriage.

What are the effects of postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression shares many of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder. You may not experience all symptoms of postpartum depression and do not need to in order to get diagnosed with the condition.

Some ways you may notice it affect your life include:

  • loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • not bonding with the baby
  • feeling intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • low energy
  • disrupted sleep not related to the baby’s needs
  • withdrawing from friends or family
  • intense feelings of guilt or shame
  • thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • feeling moody or angry
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Postpartum depression treatments can help a person improve and recover from the condition. Treatment may be divided into acute and maintenance stages:

  • Acute stages: help to get the depression into remission
  • Maintenance stages: helps to keep symptoms of depression from returning

Treatments can vary based on a person’s needs as well as preferences. You may find that using a combination of therapies helps the most.

Some common treatment strategies include:

  • joining support groups
  • psychotherapy or talk therapy
  • medications, such as antidepressants
  • taking steps to manage self-care
  • asking for and seeking help from family and friends
  • administration of brexanolone — an IV medication given in a clinical setting

You may find talking with a healthcare professional may help with developing an effective treatment strategy.

For tips on coping with depression, check out this hub of depression information.

Postpartum depression is a common occurrence in both people who give birth, their partners, and adoptive parents. It can occur after both miscarriage and live birth scenarios.

Postpartum depression can have several negative effects, including not bonding well with the baby, shifts in overall mood, and changes in desire to do pleasurable activities.

Treatment can help a person with postpartum depression to manage and prevent a return of symptoms.

If you feel you may have postpartum depression, you should consider reaching out to a healthcare professional, close friend, or family member for help. A healthcare professional will likely have recommendations for therapy or other treatments.

If you feel like you are in crisis, you should contact the national hotline for immediate help at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).