What to know about postpartum and menopausal depression

Gender differences in mental health 

Although women and men experience mental health issues at about the same rate, different conditions have different prevalence by gender. Some conditions, like anxiety and depression, appear to occur more frequently in women.

Why do women generally experience anxiety and depression more often than men? Researchers believe there are a number of reasons. One reason is that women are often more likely to report their symptoms and seek help. They also might be more likely to ruminate on their problems and those of their loved ones, and therefore not be as proactive about solving the problem. Finally, women experience more frequent stressful life events and more adverse socioeconomic factors than men.

There are also forms of depression that women face which men do not, namely postpartum depression and menopausal depression. Read on for information about each and how women are using online mental health care to solve them.

Postpartum depression

It’s completely normal to feel fatigued for some time after birth and to experience frequent mood swings due to hormonal changes. However, if the symptoms persist over time or interfere with the ability to care for yourself or your child, you may be suffering from postpartum depression (PPD).

PPD affects as many as 15% of women after giving birth. Like many other mental health conditions, the symptoms can be different for every woman. And the frequency, intensity, and length of symptoms might vary. 

Symptoms

In addition to a depressed mood, signs and symptoms of postpartum depression can include:

  • crying spells or excessive crying
  • withdrawal from family and friends 
  • difficulty bonding with your baby
  • sleep and appetite disturbances 
  • difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • intense irritability or anger
  • feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy, especially surrounding being a good mother
  • severe anxiety or panic attacks
  • thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Risk factors

Certain things can increase your risk of developing postpartum depression. They include:

  • having a history of depression or bipolar disorder
  • having twins, triplets, or multiple pregnancy
  • difficulty breastfeeding
  • you’ve had stress or complications during the pregnancy
  • your baby has health problems 

The good news is that there are effective treatments for PPD. Read the Treatment section below for more.

Menopausal depression

Menopause is a major life transition that all women undergo in midlife. During this process, women lose their menstrual cycle and fertility. The hormone fluctuations caused by this process also influence serotonin, a brain chemical that influences feelings of happiness and anxiety.

These hormone fluctuations can also lead to mood swings, sleep and appetite disturbances, and in some more severe cases, menopausal depression. Although most women experience this transition without being burdened by significant distress, an estimated 20% of women experience depression at some point during the menopausal process.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of menopausal depression can include:

  • overwhelming feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • increased irritability
  • extreme fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating and absorbing information
  • loss of motivation
  • thoughts of suicide

Risk factors

Similarly to postpartum depression, certain factors can increase your risk of developing menopausal depression. They include:

  • having a history of depression 
  • having other physical health issues
  • undergoing other major life stresses at the same time as menopause. Examples are divorce, loss of parents, or kids leaving home.

Treatment

Both postpartum depression and menopausal depression can be stigmatizing. For example, with postpartum depression, many women may experience guilt because they are expected to be overjoyed about their newborn. Stigma like this makes some women embarrassed or afraid to seek treatment. But, if your symptoms are interfering with your ability to care for yourself or your baby, it may be time to get help.

Thankfully, these mood fluctuations are common and can be managed with talk therapy and lifestyle changes. And at Cerebral, we work towards erasing the stigma associated with postpartum and menopausal depression. 

With Cerebral’s online treatment, you can get short- or long-term talk therapy, cognitive behavioral interventions, and help with lifestyle changes—all from the comfort of your own home. You can even pick your own care team to make sure the process is as comfortable as possible.

If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression or menopausal depression, don’t suffer in silence. Cerebral is here to help.

Medically reviewed by: David Mou, MD, MBA

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  • If you are in emotional distress, here are some resources for immediate help:

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
    Call 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Text Line:
    Text Home to 741-741
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