Postpartum Depression

You are not alone 

Women go through a lot of emotional, physical and hormonal changes when having a baby. These changes can affect her moods and how she acts and feels. Serious mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression (PPD) impact about 15 to 20 percent of all women who give birth.

The "baby blues" are a normal experience. About 80 percent of new moms experience the "baby blues." Because it is so common and the symptoms are milder, it is not considered a mood disorder. Symptoms may include crying spells, mood swings, feeling sad, anxious or overwhelmed. The "baby blues" usually start a few days after delivery and last a couple weeks. The symptoms go away on their own, especially when mothers get more sleep, eat healthy and receive emotional support.

Characteristics of Postpartum Depression:

  • Symptoms can happen days, weeks or months after birth.
  • It's caused by a change in brain chemistry. It is not your fault.
  • It's treatable with counseling and/or medication.

Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Depression or Mood Disorders

  • Excessive worrying and anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Persistent crying or sadness
  • Inability to sleep, even when you're exhausted
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not finding pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Inability to take care of yourself or your baby
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Extreme changes in your behavior

People at Risk for Postpartum Depression

  • Have previously experienced postpartum mood disorders or another psychiatric illness, such as anxiety.
  • Have recently experienced high level of stress.
  • Don't get at least five uninterrupted hours of sleep a night.
  • Don't have support from a partner, family members or friends.
  • Experience domestic violence.

Do postpartum mood disorders affect my baby?

Yes. Postpartum mood disorders can affect your baby. They are serious illnesses which, if not treated, can have long term effects for both baby and mother. Depressed mothers may not interact with their baby as much as mothers who are not depressed. The baby of a constantly depressed mother may not form a secure bond to their mother. A poor baby-mother bond can put children at risk of learning delays, relationship dysfunctions, trouble expressing emotions and future mental health disorders.

Mothers who are depressed are not always able to handle the tasks of being a mom. They may be able to provide basic care, like food and shelter. However, depressed mothers may only respond to fussing and crying, while ignoring positive actions like smiling. Babies are aware of how their mother feels. Women whose PPD is not treated may go on to develop a chronic mental illness. If a mother with PPD has psychotic symptoms, she may be at risk of hurting herself or her baby.

Partners Can Experience PPD Too

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 10 percent of men or non-birthing parents worldwide showed signs of depression. This can happen from the first trimester of their partner's pregnancy through six months after the child was born. Men or non-birthing parents may feel detached from caregiving, helpless, irritable or overwhelmed by the new family dynamic. They may also feel anxious or have grief over the loss of the old relationship with their partner. Treating a new father/non-birthing parent for PPD can affect the overall health of a family. It's important to address these mood changes as soon as possible.

When to Call Your Provider

If you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression, call your provider. Your doctor can help you determine if you are struggling with PPD and find a treatment plan for you. If you hallucinate (see things that aren't there) or fear that you will harm yourself or your baby, call 911 or go to the Emergency Room immediately.