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Understanding Postpartum Depression -- the Basics


If you are having hallucinations or delusions about yourself or your baby, contact your health care provider right away for help or go to the emergency room. This condition, called postpartum psychosis, is the most severe and the rarest postpartum reaction. It is an emergency requiring immediate medical help.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

The exact cause of postpartum depression is still being debated among medical professionals. Many doctors believe that the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth are primarily responsible for the illness. Estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Then, after a woman gives birth, her production of these hormones -- as well as endorphins, cortisol, prolactin, and corticotrophin-releasing hormones -- drops significantly. These changes may trigger postpartum depression. PPD may also be caused or aggravated by exhaustion from childbirth, stress, or lack of sleep in the early weeks of a newborn's life.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD, FACOG on March 17, 2014

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