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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 deep sadness. Or you may have other difficult emotions you didn’t expect or think would be associated with having a baby.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a treatable illness that can happen after childbirth. It is different from the “baby blues,” which is usually at its worst around the fourth day after birth. The baby blues often ease in less than two weeks.

Postpartum depression can 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, seek help right away.

What are the symptoms of PPD?

Signs 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
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble focusing or making decisions
  • Feeling overly worried about your baby
  • 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. A new baby changes the family dynamics in often unexpected ways.

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 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 PPD
  • 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

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call your health care professional, 911 or a suicide hotline such as 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Or have someone drive you to your nearest emergency department.

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.

By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer

Sources
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Postpartum depression. Accessed: July 15, 2016.
Womenshealth.gov. Pregnancy. Recovering from birth. Accessed: July 15, 2016.
National Institute of Mental Health. Postpartum depression facts. Accessed: July 15, 2016.
American Psychological Association. Postpartum depression: What is postpartum depression & anxiety? Accessed: July 15, 2016.

Last Updated: July 15, 2016