Postpartum Depression: Knowing the signs

Having a baby is supposed to be a happy, joyful occasion. It is a momentous event that you and your family both celebrate. However, in the days and weeks following birth, some mothers may feel depressed. Traditionally, when a new mom is feeling down, is irritable or overly emotional, she is suffering from the “baby blues.” But if it lasts longer and symptoms are stronger, it may be postpartum depression.

What is postpartum depression?

According to the American Psychological Association, postpartum depression can be defined as “a serious mental health problem characterized by a prolonged period of emotional disturbance, occurring at a time of major life change and increased responsibilities in the care of a newborn infant. PPD can have significant consequences for both the new mother and family.”

Who suffers from PPD?

Among women who have just given birth, approximately 9-16 percent suffer from postpartum depression. More than just the baby blues, PPD affects the ability of the mother to not only take care of herself, but her newborn as well.

What causes PPD?

The March of Dimes notes that doctors aren’t entirely sure what exactly causes PPD, but there are many factors that can lead up to it. These can include: age (if younger than 20), past PPD or mood disorders, family history, or life stressors (including a difficult pregnancy, money problems, family health, partner issues, or smoking, drinking or drug abuse). 

What are the signs of PPD?

If you are suffering from strong feelings of depression or anxiety, lose interest in daily activities, and find it hard to bond with your baby within one to three weeks after giving birth, it is important that you seek help immediately. While many new moms feel stressed and anxious about their new job, women who feel like they can’t take care of their baby or who have trouble connecting to their newborn, who aren’t sleeping or don’t take time to themselves, are often those who suffer from postpartum depression.

What treatments are available?

The baby blues often lasts up to two weeks. If your depression lasts longer than this, it is time to talk to your doctor. The earlier you catch PPD, the easier your recovery will be. Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your mood and health history and may check your hormone levels. Treatments include counseling and support groups, and in some cases, medications such as antidepressants or estrogen. The March of Dimes suggests keeping active, eating healthy foods, resting as often as possible, and taking time to yourself – even if it’s just to read a book or listen to music. Be sure to talk to someone if you’re having difficulty coping, and take advantage of close friends and family who are there to help. By keeping yourself healthy and fit, you’ll be better able to handle your new task as mother of your newborn. 

For more information or for organizations to contact if you’re feeling the signs of PPD, call PPD Moms (1-800-PPDMOMS or 1800PPDMOMS.org), National Hopeline Network (1-800-SUICIDE or hopeline.com), Mental Health America (1-800-273-TALK), or the US Department of Health and Human Services