What is it?
Postpartum Depression is a form of depression that occurs after giving birth. This kind of depression might cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety. It can also cause a feeling of disconnect with the newborn baby for weeks or months. Having postpartum depression does not mean you’re a bad parent, that you should be ashamed for having it, or that you’re the only person to ever feel like this. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. It is a common occurrence in the United States, with 11.5% of people developing it, or 37.2 million people in the United States alone.
Is it different from ‘baby blues’?
‘Baby blues’ are very common within the first few days after giving birth and last for a week or two and then disappear. The symptoms of the baby blues are sadness, fatigue, crying spells, and mood swings. But again, these are a temporary occurrence and the baby blues go away relatively quickly. The baby blues do not require any sort of treatment, though 1 in 4 who have baby blues go on to develop postpartum depression.
When does it happen?
Postpartum depression occurs after giving birth. The symptoms can start before delivery or they can present themselves afterward for a few weeks to a few months. Sometimes symptoms persist for longer.
What are the causes?
Postpartum depression can be caused by several factors. Emotional stress can contribute, such as the loss of a job, the death of someone, financial stress, relationship problems, and the weight of new responsibilities as a new parent.
Signs and Symptoms
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Oversleeping or being unable to sleep when your baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating and making decisions
- Frequent feelings of anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains
- Eating too little or too much
- Avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding with your baby
- Persistently doubting your ability to care for your baby
- Thinking about harming yourself or your baby
Talk about it
- Talk with your doctor before and after giving birth. Form a game plan. The best way to protect you and your baby is to be prepared in case you develop postpartum depression. Having that open dialogue with your doctor can be beneficial and put your mind at ease during or after pregnancy.
- Remember that you are not a bad parent if you have postpartum depression. It is never anyone’s fault if they develop it, and no one should make you feel that way.
- Talk to friends, family, partners, etc. about the way you are feeling. It’s always better to talk about what you’re going through rather than bottle it up, which can sometimes make it worse.
Who’s at risk?
Postpartum depression is an indiscriminate condition, meaning it affects anyone regardless of ethnicity, race, income, or marital status. Here are other factors that increase the risk of developing:
- A history of depression or mood disorders
- Limited support at home
- Domestic conflict with a spouse or partner
- Current or recent stressful life events
- Financial difficulties
- Postpartum depression with a prior pregnancy
- Sleep deprivation
How is postpartum depression treated?
Postpartum depression is often treated with medication and/or talk therapy. Every treatment is different depending on the severity of the depression and your individual needs.
If you or someone you know thinks they might have postpartum depression, talk with your provider and ask for support from your family and friends. If something is urgent or emergent, please call 911 emergency services.
How do you help parents experiencing postpartum depression?
We regularly screen parents at visits for children of all ages to see how they are feeling, but we ask more questions when children are young to assess how parents are adjusting to having a newborn. When parents are struggling, we set them up with resources including home visiting, therapy, or other resources. Parenting is stressful but we want to set up each parent for success.