Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is much more serious and lasts longer than the "baby blues."

The following are the most common symptoms of postpartum depression, but each woman may have slightly different symptoms.

Symptoms of postpartum depression

Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Poor concentration
  • A fear of harming the newborn or yourself
  • Mood swings with exaggerated highs, lows, or both
  • Lower sex drive (libido)
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Uncontrolled crying and with no known cause
  • Overconcern or over-attentiveness for the newborn, or a lack of interest in the newborn
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory loss
  • Feelings of isolation

What causes postpartum depression?

While the exact cause for postpartum depression is unknown, it is likely that a number of different things are involved. These may include:

  • The changing of roles (as a spouse and new parent)
  • Hormone changes during and after delivery
  • Personal or family history of mental illness, particularly postpartum depression
  • Marital strife

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

Typical diagnostic procedures for postpartum depression include a complete health history, physical exam and/or psychiatric evaluation.

In some cases, you may need a thyroid screening to find any hormone or metabolic problems or conditions that may serve as an underlying cause.

Treatment for postpartum depression

It is important to note that most women who get the "baby blues," postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety or postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder have never had these symptoms before, especially with such intensity. In any case, it is important to get proper treatment early.

I felt like I was living in a dream I couldn’t wake up from. I didn’t feel like a mom, nor did I feel like myself. I would often pretend to be happy and think maybe I would end up feeling that way. Of course, that didn’t work either. Read Karen's Story

This is not only to make sure that the newborn remains safe and properly cared for, but also so that you can resolve these symptoms and experience all the joys of motherhood.

Specific treatment for postpartum depression will be determined by your health care provider based on:

Your age, overall health, and health history; how serious your symptoms are and how long they have lasted; whether you are breastfeeding; your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies; and your opinion or preference.

Treatment may include:

  • Medicine such as hormone treatments, antidepressants, or both
  • Psychological treatment that may include both you and your family or partner
  • Peer support such as support groups  and educational classes
  • Stress management and relaxation training
  • Exercise
  • Assertiveness training

Some women may find it helpful to set limits with family members in order not to become overwhelmed.