March 10, 2021

The Chemical Difference Between Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Depression

The Chemical Difference Between Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Depression

Postpartum depression and depression are two forms of clinical depression that share a number of symptoms. But depression is unrelated to childbirth, while postpartum depression occurs after the birth of a baby. Postpartum depression is usually diagnosed within the first year after giving birth but can extend beyond that.

The Chemistry of Depression

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Depression is associated with the imbalance of three neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Restoring the balance of brain chemicals can help alleviate symptoms, which is where the different classes of antidepressant medications come in.

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The Chemistry of Postpartum Depression

While there’s a lot of overlap with depression, postpartum depression has unique chemical differences. The chemical changes involve a rapid drop in hormones after delivery.

Progesterone and Estradiol Levels

During your pregnancy, the amount of the female hormone progesterone increases 10 times. Your body also makes 50 times more of estradiol (a form of estrogen). In the two weeks after you give birth, those hormones plunge back to their normal levels. This striking shift is believed to cause imbalances in mood-regulating hormones.

Lower Estrogen Levels Impact Serotonin

There are certain characteristics that distinguish postpartum depression from depression that are unrelated to childbirth. In addition to the typical symptoms of depression – sleep and appetite disturbance, anxiety, weepiness, hopelessness, loss of concentration, loss of sexual interest, and social withdrawal – a woman with postpartum depression might be:

  • Sleep-deprived
  • Dealing with the psychological adjustment of transitioning to motherhood
  • Hormonally unsteady
  • Breastfeeding or weaning
  • Experiencing worrisome thoughts about her baby or her ability to be a good mother
  • Feeling guilt and disappointment about what’s supposed to “the best time in her life.”

Learn More About Postpartum Depression and Treatment with Baptist Health

If left untreated, postpartum depression can last months or even years. The sooner you find assistance, the faster you can enjoy bonding with your baby. To learn more about postpartum depression or to find treatment, contact your nearest Baptist Health provider today.

Next Steps and Useful Resources:

How to Help Boost a Baby’s Immune System
After Your Delivery: The Baptist Health Difference
Find a Behavioral Health Provider

Learn More.