The Reality of Postpartum Depression

Historically, physicians have been taught that postpartum depression is a depression that only happens after birth, but statistically, it doesn’t always happen post pregnancy, and it isn’t always just depression. The truth is, postpartum is a very real, prevalent, and complex condition for new moms, even celebrities like Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Courtney Cox have disclosed their personal struggles with postpartum depression. In this article, Cognitive Psychiatry’s Dr. Gray, will discuss more details about Postpartum Depression, including some risk factors to be aware of.


Studies suggest that at least 1 in 8, and as many as 1 in 5 women will develop symptoms of Postpartum any time in the first 12 to 18 months after their child is born. If a repeat mother has had a previous episode of postpartum mental illness, it is statistically shown that there is a 50% to 80% risk of another episode occurring.


Studies have also shown that women, who experience postpartum, can also develop symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or even a combination of these symptoms. In fact, around two-thirds of women with depression also exhibit anxiety, and approximately a quarter of them have symptoms of bipolar disorder.



Postpartum Depression varies in severity and necessity for treatment. Sometimes cases are mild and can be resolved with exercise, regular sleep habits and adequate sleep, along with increased social support. However, a large analysis of 30 studies estimates that about one fifth of women who have an episode, have had serious symptoms.

Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition, prevalent in 1-2 per 1,000 women. This is one level of postpartum that requires immediate treatment with mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medication. Its onset is usually 2 to 3 days postpartum and there is a 4% risk of infanticide and a 5% risk of suicide for this condition. Several states have now passed laws that encourage screening, education, and treatment for mental illness. Your states’ laws regarding the matter should be something you get familiar with during the early stages of pregnancy, just in case.


We want to end this more serious article by letting you know that there is good news, and that is that treatment and help is available for Postpartum cases. Due to the extensive research into this disease in the last decade, Postpartum is more talked about these days and not so taboo because it is misunderstood. In fact, this form of depression is now recognized in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and is covered by insurance. Ergo, with adequate treatment and support, you can recover.

If you are a new mother and are suffering from depression, anxiety, or OCD, give us a call at 919.636.5240 to set up a free consultation with one of our educated and experienced physicians here at Cognitive Psychiatry.

To Your Mental Health and Wellness,

Dr. Nicola Gray, Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill


Dr. Nicola Gray

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