What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Women experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion, which may interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
There isn’t one single cause, but it’s likely due to physical and emotional factors, hormone level changes, family changes, lack of sleep, and physical discomfort. Postpartum depression doesn’t happen because of something the mother did or didn’t do. It isn’t the mother’s fault.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
- Worrying, overly anxious, moody, irritable, or restless feelings
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Los of interest in things that were once enjoyable
- Frequent aches and pains: headaches, stomach aches, muscle pains
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Withdrawal or avoiding family and friends
- Difficulty bonding with or taking care of your baby
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
Is it Depression or Baby Blues?
The “baby blues” are experienced by approximately 80 percent of mothers. Babies are a lot of work so it’s normal to worry, be tired (from lack of sleep and providing care), or get a little teary at times. These feelings are usually mild and last about a week or two, then go away on their own. If the feeling worsen or last longer than two weeks, see your provider.
Who’s At Risk?
- Women with a history of postpartum depression or a history of depression or bipolar disorder during another time in their life.
- Women who have a family member who’s been diagnosed with depression or other mental illness
- Women who faced stressful life events or medical complications during or shortly after their pregnancies
- Women who’ve had mixed feeling about pregnancy
- Women who face a lack of family support
- Women with alcohol or drug abuse problems
How Can Partners and Families Help?
- Families and friends may be the first to recognize the symptoms.
- Encourage mothers to see her provider for counseling or medication.
- Offer emotional support and assistance with daily tasks such as taking care of the baby or the home.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, thinking of suicide or hurting themselves or someone else, GET HELP QUICKLY.
- Call 911 for emergency services or go to your nearest emergency room
- Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) TTY: 1800-799-4TTY (4889)
For more information on conditions that affect mental health, resources, and research, check out:
- National Institute of Mental Health
- The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
- National Institute of Mental Health Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
Science Writing, Press, and Dissemination Branch
6001 Executive Boulevard
Room 6200, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892–9663
Phone: 301-443-4513 or 1-866-615-NIMH (6464) toll-free
TTY: 301-443-8431 or 1-866-415-8051 toll-free