Is Postpartum Depression Hereditary? | Exploring the Genetic Factors and Risk Factors

Is postpartum depression hereditary? This question looms large for many women anxious about having children, especially those whose mothers suffered from it.

Postpartum depression is a mental illness affecting approximately 15% of women post-birth, validating these concerns. Our article delves into the hereditary aspects of this condition to uncover what's true about these fears.

What's Postpartum Depression?

If a mother has postpartum depression, she feels unhappy once giving birth, generally in her first six weeks. Sleeplessness is one sign of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is different from perinatal depression.

Some new mothers don't mind it as they know they aren't ready to sleep when they have a baby. But if the mother isn't sleeping even when the baby is, it indicates depression.

Additional signs are being unable to focus on regular tasks, always stressing, losing appetite, etc. If you think you are suffering from these signs, if it's you or they just had a baby, you should see a doctor quickly.

Note: If you're a husband and you think your wife has postpartum depression, we suggest reading How to Help Wife With Postpartum Depression.

A pensive pregnant woman sitting in a nursery room surrounded by stuffed toys, reflecting on maternal mental health with a focus on is postpartum depression hereditary?

What Leads To Postpartum Depression?

Some women are anxious about having kids since they are terrified of developing postpartum depression. Several risk factors result in developing PPD in women. Possible causes are the mother's medical record, her genes, and additional mental aspects, physical and environmental factors.

Many believe that significant hormone changes after and during childbirth cause psychiatric conditions like postpartum depression. When estrogen and progesterone levels decline, the body's hormones transform swiftly[1]. This rapid alteration in the hormones can have psychological impacts.

But many women who aren't sad have a similar decrease in hormones and estrogen levels in women with PPD[2]. Poor sleep can have a significant role in creating postpartum depression[3].

After giving birth, women typically lack proper rest since they have to care for their newborns. Little sleep can significantly affect how a woman works, thinks, and manages things. Lacking enough and sound sleep, women could show depressive symptoms.

Shifts in hormones and not having proper rest aren't the only risk factors that develop PPD tend to occur.

Certain emotional circumstances include having difficulty giving birth or being anxious about being a new mom. PPD may be brought on by difficult times like quitting a job or a loved one's death.

Typical Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression

Identifying symptoms of postpartum depression is vital to receiving the support you require as quickly as possible. Postpartum depression can have tiny to severe depressive symptoms, like:

Remember that you can get support and aren't alone when you become sad after giving birth.

A black and white photo of a mother gently cradling her baby, both appearing contemplative, symbolizing concerns around is postpartum depression hereditary?

Is Postpartum Depression Hereditary?

In general, there are various types of proof about if depression is brought on by genes or not. Many research studies indicate that those with certain psychiatric genetics could find themselves in places or circumstances where they are more inclined to get a depressed mood[4].

Additional research suggests that certain kinds of anxiety can be passed down from parent to child, but not depression[5]. But experts have discovered a gene that appears to be associated with depression[6].

Experts have found that about 40% of individuals with depression have a genetic link to their illness, whereas 60% of individuals with depression are sick due to things in their environment[7].

In reality, if a person has a parent or child with major depression, they are between two and three times more likely to get it themselves[6].

So, depression can be seen as a condition that runs in the family, yet not always. Still, it does not show whether or not it's true for postpartum depression in particular.

Is There A Genetic Connection To Depression?

It is claimed that when one examines the vast array of causes that could lead to postpartum depression, it is remarkable that the amount of women suffering from it is as tiny as it is.

The claim is based on the notion that many factors can trigger postpartum depression. A line of thinking suggests that this can be attributed to the idea that hereditary factors indeed cause certain women to have a lesser likelihood of getting this awful condition.

Even though family members are linked to major depressive disorder, this is not the case for postpartum depression. A thorough examination of genetic studies released on related subjects attempted to piece together the data at hand to conclude.

On the other hand, the outcomes of that research study showed insufficient proof to support the theory that one specific gene is associated with postpartum depression.

Are There Any Risks Associated With Postpartum Depression?

During a brief period after delivery, women are prone to feel signs of postpartum depression. Women who are mindful of whether or not they've got a family history of postpartum depression have an edge when it comes to planning for the time after the delivery of their child.

There is an increased likelihood that you will also be suffering from postpartum depression if your mother, your sister, your aunt, your grandmother, your cousin, or any additional member of your previous history reports having postpartum depression and if they all reveal similar tales about their experiences with the disorder [8].

If you have a history of serious psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder, you could also develop postpartum psychosis[9]. Even if no other woman in your family has gone through postpartum depression, this does not guarantee that you will not suffer from it after giving birth.

Genes are not the only factor responsible for depression; environmental risk factors additionally have a role in its growth[10].

As an example, having a stressful birth situation may boost the likelihood of getting postpartum depression[11]. It is essential to be mindful of early warning signs and risk factors to get assistance as quickly as possible. These are some of the greater risk factors:

Managing Postpartum Depression

Your doctor will examine postpartum depression to obtain data on the signs as well as any additional mental health data, such as your medical past.

Upon evaluating the likely level of PPD you could have, your healthcare professional will review the many treatment choices open to you.

Psychotherapy, that can also be referred to as "talk therapy," is one of the therapies that are usually suggested for postpartum depression[12]. Only two kinds of therapy are currently accessible for the treatment of PPD: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy.

To further assist you with handling depression and anxiety symptoms, your medical professional can suggest antidepressants for you to take[13]. Several of these medicines can be used without danger while breastfeeding. Brenaxolone is a further psychological medicine that has been particularly authorized to manage PPD[14].

In addition to getting treatment with therapy and medication, many women who have trouble with mood disorders additionally discover comfort by participating in support groups.

Bigger associations like Postpartum Support International additionally offer women who could need an option for remote participation with the ability to engage in online support groups. Additionally, you can also help your wife with postpartum depression.

Women in emotional support groups receive help for their mental health from mothers like them who are coping with postpartum depression (PPD)[15].


Most studies concluded that hormonal changes after pregnancy and childbirth create postpartum depression. We still don't know what causes postpartum depression. But it's primarily due to genes.

Depression can cause sleep problems, anxiety, indecision, anger, trouble concentrating, and weight loss. Researchers investigated and found a gene that is linked to major depressive disorder. So, genetics explain depression. Postpartum depression is peculiar.

Certain genetic studies show that postpartum depression can be triggered by things in the environment or by psychological issues from the past. There may be a link between genes and postpartum depression.

  1. Hormonal Changes After Pregnancy- Forever Fit Mama
  2. Postpartum Depression - National Library Of Medicine
  3. Association Between Sleep Quality And Postpartum Depression - PMC
  4. The Etiology Of Depression -National Library Of Medicine
  5. Anxiety And Depression In Children: Get The Facts - CDC
  6. Major Depression And Genetics - Standford Medicine
  7. Biological, Psychological, And Social Determinants of Depression - PMC
  8. Postpartum Depression: A Systematic Review Of The Genetics Involved - PMC
  9. Postpartum Psychosis - National Health Service
  10. Genetic And Epigenetic Factors Associated With Depression - PMC
  11. The Effect Of Stressful Life Events On Postpartum Depression - PMC
  12. Postpartum Depression - Mayo Clinic
  13. Postpartum Depression - Science Direct
  14. FDA Approves First Treatment For Postpartum Depression - FDA
  15. Support Group Options for Postpartum Depression - Postpartum Depression

Caring for Mentally Ill Parents: A Comprehensive Guide

How To Care For Them
Common Types of Mental Illness
Managing Caregiver Stress
Helpful Products

- Educate yourself about your parent's mental illness
- Communicate openly
- Practice empathy and active listening
- Establish a support network
- Involve your parent in decision-making
- Seek professional help
- Coordinate with healthcare providers
- Take care of yourself

- Anxiety disorders
- Depression
- Substance abuse disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- Schizophrenia
- Post-traumatic stress disorder

- Prioritize your own physical and emotional well-being
- Accept that you may not be able to meet all your parent's needs
- Connect with friends, family, or groups who understand your situation
- Consider talking to a mental health professional.

Dealing with a parent with a mental illness can be emotionally challenging and complex. With approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiencing mental health issues each year and about 10% of parents having a severe mental illness that substantially interferes with their daily activities [1], affects many families nationwide.

This easy-to-understand guide will discuss the different mental health problems and how to deal with a mentally ill parent; how having a parent with serious mental illness can impact kids, and how to help mentally ill parents so that families can get the support they need.

An elderly woman with a serious mental illness

Understanding Mental Illness:

It's essential to educate yourself about your elderly parent's mental illness better to understand their behaviors, emotions, and needs. This knowledge will help you empathize with their struggles as they battle mental illness and provide appropriate support. Learn about the symptoms, treatment options, and healthy coping skills associated with some serious mental illness your parent is experiencing.

Identifying Early Warning Signs and Triggers

Familiarize yourself with the early warning signs and triggers associated with your elderly parent's specific mental disorder, such as major depressive disorder. By recognizing these signs, you can intervene and provide appropriate support before their serious mental illness worsens.

Common early warning signs may include changes in sleep patterns, appetite, mood, or energy levels. Triggers can vary depending on the individual and may include stress, substance use, other behavior, or specific situations.

The Prevalence of Mental Illness in Parents

Mental illnesses are a common issue affecting millions worldwide, and elderly parents are no exception. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that about 1 out of every 5 adults in the United States has some mental health issues each year. About 1 in 10 parents (10%) have a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with their daily activities.

Common Types of Mental Illness in Parents infographic

Common Types of Mental Illness in Parents

The most common mental illnesses in parents are anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse disorders. Other mental illnesses that can affect parents include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [2].

An elderly man with major depressive disorder

Caring for Older Parents with Mental Illness

Caring for an aging parent with a mental illness presents unique challenges. These challenges include managing complex medical conditions, navigating the healthcare system, and dealing with emotional and financial burdens. Here are some tips for adult children caring for older mentally ill parents:

  1. Educate yourself about your parent's mental illness: Understanding your parent's specific condition will help you provide better care and support. It's essential to research their condition, treatment options, and potential complications to ensure that you are well-informed.
  2. Communicate openly: Honest and open communication is key when caring for a mentally ill parent. Encourage your parent to talk about their feelings, concerns, and any changes in their condition. Additionally, be open about your own feelings and the challenges you face as a caregiver.
  3. Empathy and Active Listening: When communicating with your mentally ill parent, practice empathy and active listening. Validate their feelings and experiences, and avoid dismissing or minimizing their emotions. You can foster a supportive and trusting relationship by demonstrating understanding and compassion.
  4. Establish a support network: A strong support network is crucial for you and your parents. Reach out to other family members, friends, or support groups for people in similar situations. You can manage the caregiving process more successfully by sharing your experiences and picking up tips from others.
  5. Involve your parent in decision-making: Include them in choices regarding their care and treatment whenever you can. This can help them feel more in control, leading to better outcomes.
  6. Seek professional help: If your parent's condition worsens or becomes unmanageable, don't hesitate to seek professional help. This could include a psychiatrist, therapist, or geriatric care manager.
  7. Coordinating with Healthcare Providers: Maintain open communication with your parent's healthcare providers to ensure you are well informed about their treatment plan and progress. Regularly share updates on their symptoms, medication response, and any changes in their condition. You can make sure that your parent receives the finest treatment possible by working together with healthcare professionals.
  8. Take care of yourself: Caring for an aging parent with a mental illness can be incredibly stressful. Never forget to put your health first and get the help you need without hesitation. This might involve finding respite care, attending a support group, or seeking therapy.
An elderly woman with a nurse

Tips for coping with caregiver stress

Managing Caregiver Stress:

Caring for a mentally ill parent can be emotionally and physically demanding, leading to caregiver stress. Here are some tips to help you:

The Impact of Mentally Ill Parents on Children

Children of parents with mental illness are at an increased risk for a number of problems, including[3]:

An elderly woman with the family caregiver

Supporting Children of Mentally Ill Parents

There are a number of things that can be done to help children of parents with serious mental illnesses: [4]

  1. Providing emotional support to the child
  2. Helping the child to understand their parent's mental illness
  3. Getting the child involved in therapy or support groups
  4. Ensuring that the child has access to quality education and healthcare
  5. Creating a stable and supportive home environment

Family Therapy and Programs

Participating in family therapy or specialized programs to seek treatment for serious mental illnesses can provide families with the tools and strategies they need to cope with the situation. These services can help improve communication, resolve conflicts, and address mental health concerns within the family. Speak to your healthcare provider or mental health professional about available family therapy options or programs in your area.

An aging parent with mental health issues

Self-Care for Children of Mentally Ill Parents:

Children of mentally ill parents must practice self-care and prioritize their well-being. Consider the following self-care strategies:

Set boundaries:

Establish healthy boundaries to protect your emotional and mental health, and communicate them clearly to your parent.

Engage in hobbies and interests:

Pursue activities that bring you joy and relaxation, as they can help alleviate stress and provide a sense of normalcy.

Maintain a support network:

Build relationships with friends, family members, and mentors who can offer emotional and practical support.

Seek therapy or counseling:

Never forget to put your health first and get the help you need for your mental health.

An example of aging parents

Supporting Your Parent's Treatment

Encourage your parent to seek professional help and adhere to their treatment plan, which may include therapy, medication, or support groups. Offer assistance scheduling appointments, attending therapy sessions, or researching available resources. Remember to respect their autonomy and make decisions together whenever possible.

Resources for Families Affected by Parental Mental Illnesses

Several organizations and resources are available to help families affected by parental mental illness, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). These organizations offer educational materials, support groups, and mental health resources to help families cope and find the support they need.

Legal and Financial Considerations for Families with a Mentally Ill Parent

In addition to taking care of the emotional and physical challenges that come with caring for mentally ill parents, there are often legal and financial considerations that families must navigate. Here are some key areas to be aware of:

Guardianship and Conservatorship:

If a parent with mental health problems can't make choices for themselves, a family member might need to become their guardian. This is a legal process that allows the guardian to make important decisions for the parent, like handling money, making healthcare choices, and figuring out where they should live.

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney lets someone you choose make health-related choices for your mentally ill parent when they can't make those decisions themselves. This can be essential for ensuring that the parent receives appropriate care and treatment.

Estate Planning

Families need to work with an experienced attorney to create an estate plan that addresses the needs of the mentally ill parent and the family members who will be responsible for their care. Keep in mind that your health should come first and that you should get the help you need for your mental health.

Emergency Planning

Create an emergency plan in case your parent experiences a mental health crisis. This plan should include a list of emergency contacts, such as healthcare providers, family members, and friends who can provide support. Ensure you are familiar with local crisis intervention services and know when and how to access them. Having a plan can help you respond quickly and effectively in times of crisis.

Public Benefits

Families caring for a mentally ill parent may be eligible for various public benefits, such as Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs can provide financial assistance to help cover the costs of medical care, housing, and other necessities.

Support Services

Many communities offer support services for families caring for a mentally ill parent, such as respite care, counseling, and caregiver support groups. These resources can be invaluable in helping families manage the challenges of caregiving and maintain their well-being.

Respite Care

Respite care is a temporary arrangement that allows caregivers to take a break from their caregiving duties. This can be beneficial for both the caregiver and the mentally ill parent. Respite care options can include in-home care, adult day care centers, or short-term stays at residential facilities. To find respite care services in your area, contact local social service agencies or search online directories.

By taking the time to address legal, financial, and support service considerations, families can create a more stable and secure future for their loved ones with mental illness and for themselves.

An elderly woman thinking about her past experiences

Personal Stories: Courage and Resilience in Caring for Mentally Ill Parents

Short Intro: To better understand the challenges and triumphs those caring for mentally ill parents face, we have gathered five inspiring real-life stories. These accounts highlight the courage, resilience, and compassion of individuals who have navigated the complexities of supporting a parent with a serious mental illness while maintaining their well-being. We hope these stories will offer comfort, encouragement, and a sense of solidarity for those facing similar circumstances.

Sarah's journey with her bipolar mother

Sarah shares her experiences growing up with a mother who had bipolar disorder. The challenges they faced, the importance of support networks, and how Sarah learned to cope and care for her mother. Read Sarah's full story here

Mark's struggle caring for his schizophrenic father

Mark opens up about his father's battle with schizophrenia and the emotional and mental toll that it took on their family. He talks about the importance of education, seeking professional help, and the support that eventually helped them through their journey. Read Mark's full story here

Jennifer's experience as a child of a mother with depression:

Jennifer tells the story of growing up with a mother who had severe depression. She shares the impact it had on her childhood, the support she received from her father, and the resilience she developed as a result. Read Jennifer's full story here

Tom's dedication to helping his mom with anxiety

Tom shares his experiences as an adult child caring for his elderly mother who suffers from severe anxiety. He discusses the challenges they faced, the importance of patience and empathy, and the resources he found helpful in their journey. Read Tom's full story here

Lisa's resilience in caring for her mother with borderline personality disorder

Lisa recounts the difficulties she faced growing up with a mother with borderline personality disorder, and how she learned to care for her mother while maintaining her own well-being. She emphasizes the importance of self awareness, of setting boundaries and finding support. Read Lisa's full story here

Who to contact for support?

Here's a list of some organizations and helplines that can offer assistance:

  1. Online therapy with verified psychologists
  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
  3. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  4. American Psychological Association (APA)
  5. Child Mind Institute
  6. Mental Health America (MHA): Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  8. Family Support Groups
  9. Online Communities and Forums:
  10. Caregiving Apps and Tools:Utilizing caregiving apps and tools can help streamline your caregiving tasks and reduce stress. There are a variety of apps and tools designed to help caregivers manage their responsibilities, such as medication reminders, appointment trackers, and symptom journals. Here are a few examples:
    • CareZone: This app allows you to organize health information, set medication reminders, and track symptoms for multiple family members.
    • Lotsa Helping Hands: This tool helps you create a care calendar to coordinate assistance and support from friends and family.
    • eMoods: This mood-tracking app is designed specifically for individuals with bipolar disorder and their caregivers, enabling you to track symptoms and identify patterns.


Parental mental illness can bring chaos and hardship to a whole family dynamic, negatively impacting children’s emotions and well-being. Although it can be difficult to cope with such a situation, it is important to remember that communication and education are helpful tools in helping families navigate this challenge.

Finally, online therapy resources can serve as a great alternative route of support if traditional options aren't available. No matter what option you choose, we all must come together to ensure those affected by mentally ill parents have the resources they need to lead successful lives.


How can I help my child understand their grandparent's mental illness?

Providing age-appropriate information, engaging in open conversations, and involving them in therapy or support groups can help your child understand their grandparent's mental illness.

What resources are available for families affected by mentally ill parents?

Providing age-appropriate information, engaging in open conversations, and involving them in therapy or support groups can help your child understand their grandparent's mental illness.


  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2023). Mental Illness in America: Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from
  2. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2023). Mental Illness Disorders in Adults. Retrieved from
  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2023). Impact of Mental Illness on Children and Adolescents. Retrieved from
  4. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2023). Helping Children of Parents with Mental Illness. Retrieved from