Support and Training to Enhance Primary Care for Postpartum Depression

Risk Factors

Researchers have determined that there are several risk factors for PPD. 12 25 90 While talking to women and gathering their histories, it is essential to have an understanding of these risk factors and how they correlate with depression. As discussed in the Assessing PPD module, taking a thorough bio-psycho-social history using intake forms and clinical interviews will help you determine if the patient has any of these risk factors in her history and therefore is at increased risk for developing PPD.

Keep in mind that women with many risk factors may never develop PPD, and women who display no risk factors can still experience symptoms of PPD or the disorder itself.

Psychosocial Risk Factors

  • Unplanned/unwanted/mistimed pregnancy
  • Unemployment, either the woman or her partner, not by choice
  • Young maternal age, especially adolescence: nearly 50 percent of teen mothers may experience PPD 43 64
  • Marital dissatisfaction
  • Lack of social support, especially from the partner
  • Recent stressful life events within 2 years of pregnancy, such as a death, divorce, or relocation
  • Stress regarding child care for the new baby or other children (mom’s perception of her stress level is more salient than the amount of distress the events should cause)
  • Fetal anomaly or infant illness immediately after birth
  • Trauma related to the pregnancy or birth
  • Interpersonal violence (current or past)
  • Difficultylist breastfeeding
  • History of sexual abuse

Biological Risk Factors

  • Previous episode of PPD or “baby” blues
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety during pregnancy
  • Personal or family history of psychiatric disorders, including alcoholism
  • History of menstrual-related mood disorders (i.e., premenstrual dysphoric disorder [PMDD]) or other hormone-related mood changes
  • Symptoms of mood disorders during past use of hormonal contraceptive methods 20
  • Severe postpartum fatigue 39

Additional Considerations

Although all women are unique, certain populations of women have additional risk factors that should be considered when identifying a woman’s risk for PPD. To learn more about risk factors for these specific subpopulations of women, click on the links below.