What are the signs of postpartum depression? 

No one would be surprised to find a new mother feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sleep-deprived after giving birth. You’ve recently delivered a baby, your hormones are changing, your daily life looks totally different, and there’s suddenly a little person entirely dependent on you. Taking a break to cry isn’t just natural: it can be cathartic.

However, there are some changes in behavior, thoughts, and mood that could indicate postpartum baby blues or postpartum depression. Postpartum baby blues might only last a few days or weeks after your baby is born. Postpartum depression, however, usually occurs within the first few weeks after birth but can appear any time in the first year after giving birth and last indefinitely if not treated.

Many women experience baby blues after giving birth, but baby blues go away on their own within about two weeks of starting. If you have baby blues, your symptoms might look like this:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Crying or sadness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
If you feel as though you need some extra support through the baby blues, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider. It is possible, though, that your baby blues might be postpartum depression. Many of the symptoms are similar to symptoms of the baby blues, but they’ll be more intense or extreme, and will last longer. Postpartum depression symptoms often make it difficult to effectively care for your baby and partake in your regular activities. Symptoms include:
  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Irritability, anger, or excessive crying
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Major changes in appetite
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Between 10% and 20% of women experience postpartum depression, which might begin days, months, or a year after giving birth. Not everyone’s experience is the same, so your postpartum depression could look totally different from your neighbor’s or your mom’s. Although less well known, new fathers can also struggle with postpartum depression and may not realize it because more focus is placed on the newborn and the mother’s recovery.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, you can set up an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss treatment options. It’s especially important to seek help if your symptoms persist for multiple weeks, get worse, or make it hard to live your day-to-day life. Parents who experience depression after the birth of a child aren’t alone, and there are treatment options available that can relieve symptoms and help you heal and recover.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. August 11, 2015. Web.
  • “Postpartum Depression.” ACOG. FAQ091 from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dec 2013. Web. Accessed 8/15/17. Available at https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Postpartum-Depression. 
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