Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression

Cureus. 2022 Oct 31;14(10):e30898. doi: 10.7759/cureus.30898. eCollection 2022 Oct.


Postpartum depression (PPD) is a widespread mental health problem and one of the prime causes of maternal suffering and ill health. On a global level, the prevalence of the disorder is about 10 to 15%. Symptoms generally appear within the first four to six weeks, which is the high-risk period. However, it may develop up to one year post-delivery. PPD presents with symptoms of classical depression, including mood fluctuations, bouts of crying, lack of interest in the child, and even thoughts of suicide. PPD not only has adverse effects on the mother's health but also hampers the growth and development of the child. It hampers the formation of a healthy mother-child bond, which in turn may impact feeding practices. The social environment of the infant during the first few months is primarily provided by the mother, and PPD may thus impact the child's development. It also increases the child's susceptibility to malnutrition. Research on postpartum depression has garnered momentum within the last few years. However, the masses are still largely unaware of the disorder and its implications. There is also an inadequacy of awareness of the risk factors of PPD. The cross-cultural differences in manifestations and appropriate preventive measures have not been extensively studied. Some risk factors for PPD are similar to those for classic depression; however, obstetrical and pediatric factors are also involved. This literature review aims to assess the currently known risk factors for PPD, their strength of association, and probable mechanisms to help identify the high-risk group and enable the implementation of preventive measures or facilitate early diagnosis. The factors identified spanned sociodemographic, biological, psychological, and obstetric domains. These included socioeconomic standing, marital relationship, history of psychiatric illness, social support, gestational diabetes, vitamin D deficiency, immigration status, delivery method, violence and abuse, birth experience, and biological and epigenetic markers. The risk factors for postpartum depression are numerous and may have strong to weak associations with the development of PPD. A previous history of depression or psychiatric illness, depressive symptoms during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, and a lack of spousal and social support were the most powerful risk factors. Other significant factors include complications during pregnancy, low socioeconomic status, and stressful life events. Studies on maternal age and chronic illness as risk factors were inconclusive. The roles of genetic and epigenetic markers, cultural factors, and vitamin D insufficiency require further investigation.

Keywords: clinical features; history of depression; post-natal mother; postnatal depression; postpartum care; postpartum depression; postpartum mental health; postpartum mothers; risk factors; spousal support.

Publication types

  • Review