How do healthcare providers diagnose postpartum depression?

Your body will feel a little different after pregnancy, partly because you’re physically exhausted and partly because your hormones levels are changing quickly. Your body experiences a drop in estrogen and progesterone after you give birth, which can lead to mood swings and can potentially contribute to postpartum depression.

Figuring out whether you’re experiencing average new mom feelings, the baby blues, or postpartum depression can be difficult, and talking with your healthcare provider can help you pin down what it is that you’re feeling.

Your healthcare provider at your postpartum checkup and Baby‘s well-child visits should be asking you questions about your feelings and adjustment to life with a new baby, but you can also make a separate appointment to talk about your risk for postpartum depression. Postpartum checkups are often scheduled for around 6 weeks after you give birth, which could feel like a long time.

If you are concerned that you may have postpartum depression, or if friends and family think you may be struggling, don’t wait for your six-week postpartum visit – see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

When you do sit down with your healthcare provider to talk about how you’re adjusting, they’ll ask you about your feelings, thoughts, and overall mental health surrounding the new baby. Be open with your healthcare provider about how you’re doing, and share any concerns or potential symptoms you might have. You might fill out a screening questionnaire, get blood drawn to test your thyroid hormone levels (as thyroid problems could leave you feeling particularly sluggish or depressed), and potentially have other tests done.

Your healthcare provider will use all of this information to distinguish between short-term baby blues, postpartum depression, or other causes of mood changes. You’ll then work together to determine the best course of treatment for you.

The best treatment for baby blues is often support from family and friends, plenty of rest, and time for yourself. If you are diagnosed with postpartum depression, you might be prescribed antidepressants, referred to a mental health professional for therapy, or both.

Additionally, making lifestyle changes alongside the treatments your provider might prescribe can help with recovery from postpartum depression. These include getting enough sleep, getting the nutrition you need, engaging in regular physical activity, seeking the company of other new parents who might be going through similar changes, asking for help and support, and making time for social interaction with friends and family or peer group therapy.

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. August 11, 2015. Web.
  • “Postpartum Depression Facts.” NIMH. NIH Publication No. 13-8000, National Institutes of Mental Health, NIH, HHS, Jun 2016. Web.
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