Postpartum Depression: How to Recognize and Treat This Common Condition

Aditi Mehta, MD; Sandeep Sheth, MD


April 24, 2006

In This Article

Introduction and Definition

Pregnancy and the birth of a new baby are major developmental transitions in life that affect not only the woman, but also her baby and the family. This discussion will address the postpartum period, when women may experience several emotional and psychological changes, some of which may or may not meet the criteria for mental illness. The term postpartum depression (PPD) is widely used but varies considerably in its definition. The condition is defined in different ways depending on the source, and the diagnosis of PPD often depends on the severity of the depression and the time duration between onset of depression and delivery . The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV) uses the term postpartum as a specifier of nonpsychotic major depression that has its onset within 4 weeks after delivery.[1] PPD has been classified on the basis of levels of severity into the following categories: "baby blues," "nonpsychotic depression," and "puerperal psychosis."[2] Other studies describe these conditions as being separate mood disorders.[3] In the following discussion, the term PPD is used to refer to nonpsychotic depression having its onset within 6 months of delivery.[4]


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