David Joel Miller
7 risk factors for Postpartum Depression.
What factors might put you at risk of Peripartum Depression?
When it comes to mental health, why one person gets a disorder and another person does not, is just not all that clear. A life event, something we call a stressor, could push one person into depression and a similar event could leave another person unscathed. Risk factors do not equal getting the disorder. But if you have these factors in your life then you are at more risk of Peripartum Depression than most.
For those not familiar with the term Peripartum depression, it is like Postpartum Depression only it allows for depression that starts in pregnancy rather than restricting the concept to those who become depressed after the birth of a child.
Here are 7 factors that put you at risk.
1. Past Episodes of Depression.
Women who have had episodes of depression in the past are at increased risk to develop Peripartum Depression. The more times someone has been depressed and the long those episodes, presumably the higher that risk.
If you have had depression and received treatment, think back to what was helpful to you in reducing or controlling that episode of depression and do more of that. If you did not get help for those past episodes of depression or sadness, now is the time.
2. Stress in your life adds risk.
The more stress the woman is under the more the risk. What is stressful to one woman may not be to another. It is far more complicated than just financial stress.
Look for ways to reduce the stress. Learn stress reduction and stress management techniques. Also work on relaxing and being patient. Give your life time to develop rather than pushing to have everything be done right now.
3. Poor relationship with your partner.
New couples need some time to adjust to each other. Some couples were never meant to be despite getting together and making that baby. Many other couples get off to a rocky start but with work they develop a good long-term relationship.
Having a second person to share the duties, joys and trials of child rearing, can be a beneficial thing for all involved. If there are problems in the relationship the sooner you work through those problems the better.
4. Having little social support increases your risks.
One person, your partner, no matter how supportive that person is, will probably not be enough support for the tasks of creating a family and raising children. Being a parent is hard work. Some people make parenting and relationships look easy but for most of us it takes work.
You partner will be going thorough things also. Sometimes you feel and think things your partner is not up to hearing. Work on strengthening your support system to reduce this risk of Peripartum Depression.
There are posts elsewhere on this blog about support systems and how to develop one. Some of those posts can be found here:
5. Your mother’s depression puts you at risk.
A family history of depression, any depression, increases the risk for you developing Depression. Having a mother had Peripartum or postpartum depression adds to the risk that a woman will have an episode of depression during pregnancy and the first year after the delivery of the child.
As with so many other “risk factors” a risk factor does not mean that absolutely positively this woman will be depressed, it just means it is one other thing to think about.
We have also seen research that suggests that the life experiences of your grandmother, great-grand-mother and beyond may be affecting your emotions. See the post – Pick your grandmas wisely – their life affects your feelings.
6. Being poor – low SES.
Along with all the other burdens that comes with being poor, living in bad neighborhoods or being of low socioeconomic status there is the extra risk of developing postpartum depression.
Absolutely there are poor families that are happy and where there is little or no depression. Having money does not deter depression. But all things being equal having some money, at least enough to get by on sure relieves a lot of the stress of being a new parent.
Couples who are able to delay that first child until they have a job or career path do better. It helps if you have stable housing and something saved up. Many young parents have to rely on family, friends or government programs to make ends meet.
Not having the money to get by on can strip the joy of a new child right out of your grasp.
7. Having a difficult infant.
There are those babies who from day one just are crankier than others. That child may have an illness or just an irritating disposition. Hard to care for children make their parent’s life more difficult. This is an extra burden on young or inexperienced parents.
These are the most commonly recognized risk factors for Postpartum or Peripartum Depression. I suspect there are other factors that up this risk, especially personal life experience factors. When you have come through difficult times or are still going through them life’s challenges can be more difficult to manage.
If you or someone you know has a lot of these risk factors, look for ways to manage the stress of going through the pregnancy or being a new parent. Support systems can help so can professionals. And if you are feeling overwhelmed just now consider a help hot-line or reaching out for professional help.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended books.