The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in some feelings that you might not expect. This article describes the symptoms of a very common condition called postpartum depression (PPD) that affects over three million moms in the US alone each year.
What Our Experts Are Saying
Insights, recommendations, and advice for parents balancing babies and the blues from the doctors, subject matter experts and thought leaders in the Modern Parent Project community.
What to Do?
Direct, straightforward and summarized advice and recommendations. Parents, please consider the following insights when navigating the challenging topic of postpartum blues and moods.
What NOT to Do?
The wrong words or actions can sometimes make things worse. Parents, please consider avoiding the following potential traps when navigating the challenging topic of postpartum blues and moods.
Speak openly with your doctor about what you are experiencing.
It’s important to speak openly with your healthcare professional regarding how you are feeling. Though not normal, postpartum mood disorders are very common and you are not alone.
Create a support system who will be there for your through your experience of postpartum mood disorder.
Share how you are feeling with the people you are close to. These people will help make up your support team and will be an integral part to your recovery.
Seek Counseling with someone who specializes in or has worked with postpartum mood disorders.
Having a postpartum mood disorder can be a scary and bewildering experience. Talking with a trained professional who understands your situation will be paramount in your recovery.
Don't keep your feelings to yourself.
It’s important that you share your feelings with both your doctor and your loved ones.
Don't think that you are alone in your struggle.
Postpartum mood disorders are not normal, but they are common, and you do not have to suffer in silence.
Don't believe the lie that you are a bad mom.
Having a postpartum mood disorder does not make you a bad mom. You are struggling with a real illness that is treatable.
Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth vary, and they can range from mild to severe.
Symptoms of Postpartum Baby Blues
Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Reduced concentration
- Appetite problems
- Trouble sleeping
- Postpartum depression symptoms
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin later — up to six months after birth.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression symptoms may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.
Symptoms of Postpartum psychosis
With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery — the signs and symptoms are even more severe. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Obsessive thoughts about your baby
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Sleep disturbances
- Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.
When to see a doctor
If you’re feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But if you experience any symptoms of postpartum baby blues or postpartum depression, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. If you have symptoms that suggest you may have postpartum psychosis, get help immediately.
It’s important to call your doctor as soon as possible if the signs and symptoms of depression have any of these features:
- Don’t fade after two weeks
- Are getting worse
- Make it hard for you to care for your baby
- Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
- Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- If you have suicidal thoughts
If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately seek help from your partner or loved ones in taking care of your baby and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number to get help.
Also consider these options if you’re having suicidal thoughts:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Seek help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
- Helping a friend or loved one
People with depression may not recognize or acknowledge that they’re depressed. They may not be aware of signs and symptoms of depression. If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression or is developing postpartum psychosis, help them seek medical attention immediately. Don’t wait and hope for improvement.
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