Is all depression after delivery considered postpartum depression?

Mood changes are common after childbirth, but they’re not always a sign of postpartum depression. Women who experience pronounced changes in their moods after giving birth are generally experiencing one of three things.

The ‘baby blues’

Nearly 80% of new mothers experience the ‘baby blues,’ characterized by periods of sadness, irritability, or restlessness, and sometimes uncontrollable bouts of crying. While the baby blues are definitely unpleasant and can be scary, they aren’t severe or long-lasting enough to require treatment. Typical symptoms include:

  • Mood fluctuations
  • Feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • Crying all the time or having a hard time stopping crying
  • Symptoms that last between a few days or two weeks
  • Poor concentration

Postpartum depression

Some women experience postpartum depression after giving birth. Postpartum depression is a serious mood disorder and it does require treatment. Women who exhibit symptoms should go to a healthcare provider so that they can get the condition diagnosed and treated, whether through counseling, medication, or some combination of the two. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • More severe mood fluctuations, feelings of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or sad
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Feeling worthless, incompetent, or scared about the future
  • Thinking about harming self or child
  • Symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks
  • Usually comes up by 2 to 3 months after childbirth

Postpartum psychosis

This disorder is much, much less common than the baby blues or postpartum depression. It affects between one and four out of every 1,000 births. Postpartum psychosis usually occurs in the first 2 weeks after a woman has given birth. It happens more often in women with certain mental health disorders, like bipolar disorder. Symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of confusion
  • Fast, fluctuating mood swings
  • Trying to hurt self or baby

It’s smart to pay attention to how you feel in the weeks following labor. After childbirth, women are susceptible to mood changes that can have impact their lives with new babies. Your feelings and moods after childbirth are important, and determining what is causing these changes can help you better address their underlying cause.

  • “Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet.” WomensHealth. US Department of Health and Human Services, Feb 12 2016. Web.
  • “Baby blues vs postpartum depression vs postpartum psychosis.” PassNC. Postpartum Adjustment Support Society of North County San Diego, Feb 17 2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression: Symptoms.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Aug 11 2015. Web.
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