Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth.  It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later.  For most women, it occurs within the first 3 months after delivery.

Women commonly have mood changes during pregnancy, especially after delivery.  These mood changes may be caused by changes in hormone levels.  Many non-hormonal factors may also affect mood during this period:

  • Changes in your body from pregnancy and delivery
  • Changes in work and social relationships
  • Having less time and freedom for yourself
  • Lack of sleep
  • Worries about your ability as a mother

Feelings of anxiety, irritation, tearfulness, and restlessness are common in the week or two after pregnancy.  For most new mothers, these feelings are often called the postpartum or “baby blues.”  These symptoms almost always go away soon, without the need for treatment.
Postpartum depression may occur when the baby blues do not fade away or when signs of depression start one or more months after childbirth.
You may have a higher chance of postpartum depression if you:

  • Are under age 20
  • Currently abuse alcohol, take illegal substances, or smoke (these also cause serious medical health risks for the baby)
  • Did not plan the pregnancy, or had mixed feelings about the pregnancy
  • Had depression ,bipolar disorder anxiety disorder before your pregnancy, or with a previous pregnancy
  • Had a stressful event during the pregnancy or delivery, including personal illness, death or illness of a loved one, a difficult or emergency delivery, premature delivery, or illness or birth defect in the baby
  • Have a close family member who has had depression or anxiety
  • Have a poor relationship with your significant other or are single
  • Have financial problems (low income, inadequate housing)
  • Have little support from family, friends, or your significant other

The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as the symptoms of depression that occurs at other times in life.  Along with a sad or depressed mood, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Agitation or irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feeling withdrawn or unconnected
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in most or all activities
  • Loss of concentration
  • Loss of energy
  • Problems doing tasks at home or work
  • Negative feelings toward the baby
  • Significant anxiety
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble sleeping

A mother with postpartum depression may also:

  • Be unable to care for herself or her baby
  • Be afraid to be alone with her baby
  • Have negative feelings toward the baby or even think about harming the baby (although these feelings are scary, they are almost never acted on).  Still you should tell your doctor about them right away
  • Intense worrying about the baby, or little interest in the baby

A new mother who has any symptoms of postpartum depression should take steps right away to get help.  Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Ask your partner, family, and friends for help with the baby’s needs and in the home.
  • Don’t hide your feelings. Talk about them with your partner, family, and friends.
  • Don’t make any major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth.
  • Don’t try to do too much, or to be perfect.
  • Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner.
  • Rest as much as you can. Sleep when the baby is sleeping.
  • Talk with other mothers or join a support group.

The treatment for depression after birth often includes medication, therapy, or both.

If you are diagnosed with depression, you may need to be followed closely for at least 6 months.
There are several types of antidepressant medications that may be given to breastfeeding mothers.

If you are concerned about symptoms of Post Partum Depression, please request an appointment with an iTherapy counselor.

See Also

  • Self-Assessment