What is postpartum depression?

Depression after childbirth: Overview

It's common to lose sleep, feel irritable, and cry easily during the first few days after childbirth. Hormone changes and the demands of a new baby can cause these "baby blues." The "baby blues" often peak around the fourth day. Then they ease up in less than 2 weeks. If these mood changes last more than 2 weeks, you may have postpartum depression.

Most people with postpartum depression feel very sad or hopeless and stop finding pleasure in life. Other symptoms may include trouble sleeping and poor appetite.

Depression is a medical condition that requires treatment. Medicine and counseling often work well to reduce depression. You can still breastfeed while taking certain medicines for depression.

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can make you feel very sad, hopeless, and worthless in the first few months after childbirth. You may have trouble caring for and bonding with your baby.

Postpartum depression is more than the "baby blues," which usually go away within a couple of weeks. The symptoms of postpartum depression can last for months. It's treated with counseling and antidepressant medicines.

What happens when you have postpartum depression?

Symptoms of postpartum depression start in the weeks to months after childbirth, miscarriage, or stillbirth. Postpartum depression makes it hard for you to function well. This includes caring for and bonding with your baby. Early diagnosis and treatment are important. In rare cases, dangerous postpartum psychosis can occur.

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?

The most common symptoms of postpartum depression are feeling very sad or hopeless and losing pleasure in life. Other symptoms may include trouble sleeping or poor appetite. Symptoms can happen in the first day or two after the birth or a couple of weeks after the birth. They can sometimes last for months.

How is postpartum depression treated?

Postpartum depression is treated with counseling and antidepressant medicines. Women with milder depression may get better with counseling alone. But many women need both. To help yourself get better, try to eat well, get exercise every day, and get as much sleep as possible. Get support from family and friends if you can.

How can you lower your risk for postpartum depression?

If you have a history of depression or postpartum depression or if you're having symptoms of depression, be sure to tell your doctor. Counseling may help lower your risk for postpartum depression. In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you start taking an antidepressant.

Many new moms feel down, anxious, or grumpy in the weeks after giving birth. For some, these feelings last longer and are more intense. If you or your loved ones are worried about how you're feeling, talk to your doctor right away.

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your mood and your symptoms. Be sure to tell your doctor about any feelings of "baby blues" at your first checkup after the baby is born. Your doctor will want to follow up with you to see how you are feeling.

How can you care for yourself if you have postpartum depression?

Here are some tips for taking good care of yourself when you have postpartum depression.

  • If your doctor prescribed medicine, take it exactly as prescribed.
  • Connect with people. Reach out to a friend or loved one. Let someone know how you're doing. Connecting with others can help when you have depression.
  • Get as much sunlight as you can. Keep your shades and curtains open. And get outside when you can.
  • Eat a healthy diet so you can keep up your energy. And avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Get daily exercise, such as walks, to help improve your mood.
  • Ask for help with preparing food and other daily tasks.
  • Get as much rest and sleep as you can. Being too tired can make depression worse.
  • Join a support group for new parents. To find one in your area, talk to your doctor.

What increases your risk for postpartum depression?

A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of having a certain problem. Risk factors for postpartum depression include:

  • A history of postpartum depression. This puts you at high risk of having it again.
  • Poor support from family, partner, and friends.
  • High life stress, such as a sick or colicky newborn, financial troubles, or family problems.
  • Physical limitations or problems after childbirth.
  • Depression during a current pregnancy.
  • Previous depression.
  • Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression.
  • A family history of depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Previous premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is the severe type of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Risk factors for postpartum psychosis include:

  • A personal or family history of bipolar disorder.
  • Previous postpartum psychosis.

What causes postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression seems to be brought on by the changes in hormone levels that happen after pregnancy. Any woman can get postpartum depression in the months after childbirth, miscarriage, or stillbirth.

You have a greater chance of getting postpartum depression if:

  • You've had depression or postpartum depression before.
  • You have poor support from your partner, friends, or family.
  • You have a sick or colicky baby.
  • You have a lot of other stress in your life.

You are more likely to get postpartum psychosis if you or someone in your family has bipolar disorder.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can happen in the first few months after childbirth. It also can happen after miscarriage or stillbirth. It can make you feel very sad, hopeless, and worthless. You may have trouble caring for and bonding with your baby.

Postpartum depression is not the "baby blues," which usually go away within a couple of weeks. The symptoms of postpartum depression can last for months.

In rare cases, a woman may have a severe form of depression called postpartum psychosis. This is an emergency because it can quickly get worse and put her or others in danger.

It's very important to get treatment for depression. The sooner you get treated, the sooner you'll feel better and enjoy your baby.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.