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Postpartum Depression: Do You Know the Symptoms?

If you’re depressed after giving birth, it might be more than the “baby blues.” Find out if you may have postpartum depression.

sad woman with hands on her forehead

Having a baby is a major life change. You finally meet the little person you’ve been carrying all these months. Yet you may feel down or even extremely sad. Or you may have other difficult emotions you didn’t expect or think would be associated with the joy of having a baby.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a treatable illness that can happen after childbirth. It is different from the “baby blues,” which is characterized by mild sadness and may include other symptoms such as mild irritability, feeling anxious or having trouble sleeping.

Postpartum depression is more severe and can make it difficult for a new mother to function.  It may start one to three weeks after delivery and untreated can last for several months. It may occur after miscarriage, stillbirth, as well as live birth.

Check the symptoms listed below to see if they apply to you. If they do, and last more than two weeks, talk with your doctor. If symptoms are severe, seek help right away.

What are symptoms of PPD?

Symptoms of PPD may include:

  • Feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, empty or sad
  • Frequent crying
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Not having any interest in your baby
  • Having negative thoughts/feelings about your baby
  • Having negative thoughts/feelings about your ability as a mother
  • Not feeling a bond with your baby
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble focusing or making decisions
  • Losing interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Thoughts of hurting your baby or yourself*

New research shows that new dads may also experience depression around childbirth. This may happen before or after the birth.

How it PPD treated?

PPD may be treated with medicine. But antidepressants may take several weeks before you begin feeling the effects of the medicine. Talk therapy is also an option. There, you talk about your feelings with a mental health professional.

A rare condition called postpartum psychosis is very serious. It requires emergency medical attention. Call 911 or take the mother immediately to the emergency room to be evaluated. Symptoms may include hallucinations and delusions. Other signs are intense agitation and strange behavior. Or confusion and severe mood swings. You may have thoughts of hurting or killing your baby or yourself. It usually requires hospitalization and intensive treatment.

What increases the risk of PPD?

The exact causes of PPD are unknown. But they may be a combination of physical, emotional or lifestyle factors. However, you may be more likely to experience PPD if you have:

  • A history of depression
  • Prior experience of PPD
  • A family history of depression or other mental illness
  • A baby who is sick or colicky
  • Problems in your relationship
  • Lack of support from your partner, family or friends
  • Significant stress in other areas of your life, such as employment or financial issues

To talk with a trained counselor, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

A new baby changes the family dynamic in often unexpected ways. Having PPD does not mean that you are a bad mother. Don’t blame yourself or hesitate to get help. It is an illness that can strike anyone. By taking care of yourself and getting help, you will be able to meet the challenges of caring for your new baby.

* If you feel you are unable to care for your baby or if have thoughts of hurting yourself, your baby or others seek help right away. If you feel there’s an immediate danger, call 911.

By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Screening for Perinatal Depression. Accessed November 22, 2019.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Postpartum Depression FAQ. Accessed November 22, 2019. Mental health conditions. Postpartum depression. Accessed November 22, 2019.
National Institute of Mental Health. Postpartum depression facts. Accessed November 22, 2019.

Last Updated: November 22, 2019