Psychologist Questions Postpartum Depression

What causes post natal depression in women?

My sister just delivered her first baby, however the doctors have detected her to be suffering from post natal depression. What could be causing this in her? We feel very upset to see her not feeling normal like how most new moms do.

6 Answers

It is my experience as well as others' that there is no one cause of post-natal depression. Because there is no single cause of postpartum depression, often, both physical and emotional issues play a role. Regarding physical changes, after childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in her body may contribute to postpartum depression. A blood chemistry and hormone level assessment by her medical doctor should be completed and determined if a medical treatment is needed. Along with this possible medical condition, emotional issues surface. A new child is all-consuming - your sister may need counseling to deal with conflicts that a newborn plays on her ability to balance her life. The thought of raising a child to be "awesome" can be a bit overwhelming and needs to be worked through.
Hope this helps.
Unfortunately, some women suffer from postpartum depression. Common causes are rapid change in hormones following the birth of the baby and sleep deprivation from caring for the new baby (and potentially other children). I would encourage you to have your sister talk to her doctor about specific factors that may be contributing to her current diagnosis. Medication and/or therapy are known to be effective treatment options.
I don't know the reason medically, but I know what she can do to minimize its effect on her. Find a good cognitive behavioral psychologist. One trained by Dr David Burns, MD is the best.

Dr. McInroy
Hormones are the most common cause; medication is usually prescribed. Of course, there are other issues with new motherhood which can exacerbate the depressive reaction - individual and couple, pain, sleeplessness, financial stress, moving, leaving outside work and contacts there, etc., etc. So it would be good to help her find a prescribing clinician and a therapist.

How lucky for her to have someone like you in her life!

Post Natal Depression is the triggering of one of our earliest traumas, if not the earliest trauma. If something happened to us as an infant that was not resolved, then having a baby brings that issue up for us on an unconscious level. It affected how we perceived ourselves, the world and our primary caregivers. Maybe it impacted our view of adults, experts or authorities (such as doctors). Maybe they made us feel helpless or worthless, by not seeming to connect with us over our emotional confusion and pain.

When we are very young we form our first semblance of identity based upon how we are treated. If we have a mother that drops us off with a stranger every day, she becomes the stranger that we are supposed to know. It's not what evolution had in mind. It makes us insecure.

We have mirror neurons that drive us to re-enact the way we are treated. Usually, the re-enactments happen as we become adults. Sometimes we can see it in children's play. Sometimes we can see it in acting out behavior. We are driven to treat others as we have been treated. What goes in must come out. What doesn't go in can't come out. It is precisely this phenomenon that inspired the Golden Rule: Do unto others as we would have them do unto you.

So, if your mother dropped you off at daycare and now you have an infant of our own, you have a hole in your intuition. Caring for our children brings up what happened to us. It brings up our feelings of inadequacy, because we are somehow supposed to treat this child in a tender and empathic way that we did not experience enough empathy ourselves. We are supposed to act as if we can provide trustworthiness to our child, but we don't feel that committed or reliable. That lack of commitment brings up further self-rejection and shame. We actually feel like leaving the baby, because we were left. It's mirror neurons + attachment deficits and insecurities + learned lack of trust. Add to that a belief in genetics plus an ethic that we are not to complain about mom, and we have shame for our feelings of anger and hurt.

It's a difficult conundrum to transcend, but sometimes it comes in a moment of actually seeing our child and falling in love. Sometimes we never make it there. We just fake it.

Dr. Faye
Hormones are the main cause and should only last 3-6 months max. If it lasts longer, then one might have a chemical unbalanced issue.