Postpartum depression is a much more common problem than once thought with as many as 15% of new mothers suffering from symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder (also known as "Manic" Depression) to schizophrenia. Most cases of Postpartum depression are from new mothers, but it can affect a woman after any pregnancy, usually within three months after child birth.
Doctors don't really know what causes this type of disorder. There have have been many studies done and there are a few theories as to possible causes, but no hard facts, as of yet. Below are some of the theories resulting from many different studies done on this condition.
Some studies show that it could be caused by a sudden, dramatic change in the level of a woman's hormones. This is a distinct possibility considering that the body is taken from having such a large amount of hormones to literally being "brought back to reality" with her hormones returning to a normal level. This occurs very suddenly over the twenty four hour period following childbirth. This is similar to the mood changes a woman experiences when suffering from Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS).
Other studies disagree. They tend to believe that it has something to do with the dramatic changes in the person's life by the stress of suddenly entering into motherhood. This is another possibility to consider as each person will react differently to different situations and different forms of stress.
Another study done shows that there are changes in thyroid hormones that bring about changes in women such as mood swings, anger, sadness and insomnia. This can be detected with blood tests and resolved by giving the patient medication to help get their hormone level back to normal.
Others say that the condition is brought on by the sudden shock of having all of the enormous responsibility that goes with having a child. Suddenly being responsible for the life of another human being is difficult for some women to grasp.
Another part of the difficulty is lack of sleep brought on by late night feedings and irregular sleep patterns, long periods of the baby crying and trying everything that they can think of to get the child to stop, without any results. This can bring on terrible feelings of guilt and thoughts of themselves as being a bad mother. This can lead to the mother feeling overwhelmed and helpless.
Another potential "trigger" to postpartum depression could be the amount of weight gain. This is a very sensitive topic for many women. Their self esteem could suffer from this, especially if they have a spouse or significant other that is not very supportive. They may have had high hopes of their body immediately returning to normal after giving birth, but may be faced with the reality that, for some, they're overweight for the first time in their life.
These are all just theories of course and will be until medical science can establish the truth, based on facts.
If you or anyone that you know is suffering from what you think may be postpartum depression, please seek medical attention as soon as possible. There may be treatments that your doctor can offer that will be helpful to get you or your loved one through this rough time in your life.