Although many new mothers are euphoric after delivering a child, some suffer mild to severe depression. Recent studies assign postnatal depression three classifications: the maternal blues, postnatal depression or postpartum neurotic depression, and postpartum psychosis. The maternal blues is a sadness lasting between a few hours to a few days. Postnatal depression or postpartum neurotic depression, a more disabling condition, is marked by mood swings, interrupted sleep and hostility. Postpartum psychosis, the most severe condition, is marked by the loss of realistic thinking in which a mother may suffer paranoia, nightmares, hallucinations and thoughts of harming herself or her baby.
One of the causes may be a large influx of hormones in the mother's body on the 4th or 5th day after labour.
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of medicine and one of the first physicians to study depression in new mothers, attributed this misery to suppressed uterine discharge. A majority of physicians trained between 1950 and 1990 were taught the notion of postpartum depression is archaic as applied to mental illness. Over the last 20 years, however, more doctors have been giving this phenomenon new attention.
According to a 1992 British study, the maternal blues affect an estimated 50 to 80% of women. Postnatal depression affects an estimated 10% of women. In a study of 54,000 new mothers, 120 were admitted to psychiatric clinics. Postpartum psychosis affects an estimated 1 mother in 1,000. Although treatment for postpartum psychosis is effective, there is a 20 to 30% chance the psychosis will return with the next birth.