For most women, having a baby brings joy and happiness. However, the sudden change in hormones after childbirth leaves many women feeling sad or moody. This is common and is often referred to as the baby blues. But about 1 in 8 new moms have more than a mild case of baby blues. These women experience strong feelings of sadness that last for a long time and can make it difficult for them to take care of their baby. This is called postpartum depression (PPD).
PPD can happen any time after childbirth, although it usually starts during the first three months. It is a medical condition and it requires medical treatment.
We’re not sure what exactly causes PPD but it can happen to any woman after having a baby. We do know that certain risk factors increase your chances to have PPD:
• You’re younger than 20.
• You’ve had PPD, major depression or other mood disorders in the past.
• You have a family history of depression.
• You’ve recently had stressful events in your life.
You may have PPD if you have five or more of the signs below and they last longer than 2 weeks.
Changes in your feelings:
• Feeling depressed most of the day every day
• Feeling shame, guilt or like a failure
• Feeling panicky or scared a lot of the time
• Having severe mood swings
Changes in your everyday life:
• Having little interest in things you normally like to do
• Feeling tired all the time
• Eating a lot more or a lot less than is normal for you
• Gaining or losing weight
• Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
• Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
Changes in how you think about yourself or your baby:
• Having trouble bonding with your baby
• Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
• Thinking about killing yourself
If you’re worried about hurting yourself or your baby, call emergency services at 911 right away.
If you think you may have PPD, call your health care provider. Your provider may suggest certain treatments such as counseling, support groups, and medicines. Medicines to treat PPD include antidepressants and estrogen. If you’re taking medicine for PPD don’t stop without your provider’s OK. It’s important that you take all your medicine for as long as your provider prescribes it.
PPD is not your fault. It is a medical condition that can get better with treatment so it is very important to tell your doctor or another health care provider if you have any signs. The earlier you get treatment, the sooner you can feel better and start to enjoy being a mom.
Updated October 2015.