Having a baby is a joyous time for most women. But many women feel sad, afraid, angry, or anxious after childbirth. Most new mothers have these feelings in a mild form called postpartum blues. Sometimes these feelings are called “baby blues.” Postpartum blues almost always go away in a few days.
About 10% of new mothers have a more serious problem called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression lasts longer and is more intense. It often requires counseling and treatment. Postpartum depression can occur after any birth, not just the first.
This pamphlet will help you learn about
- causes of postpartum depression
- how to tell if you have postpartum depression
- what you can do to ease these feelings
When to Suspect Postpartum Depression
A new mother may be developing—or already have—postpartum depression if she has any of the following signs or symptoms:
- The baby blues do not start to fade after about 1 week, or if the feelings get worse.
- Strong feelings of depression and anger come 1–2 months after childbirth.
- Feelings of sadness, doubt, guilt, or helplessness seem to increase each week and get in the way of normal functions.
- She is not able to care for herself or her baby.
- She has trouble doing tasks at home or on the job.
- Her appetite changes.
- Things that used to bring her pleasure no longer do.
- Concern and worry about the baby are too intense, or interest in the baby is lacking.
- Anxiety or panic attacks occur. She may be afraid to be left alone in the house with the baby.
- She fears harming the baby. These feelings are almost never acted on by women with postpartum depression, but they can be scary. These feelings may lead to guilt, which makes the depression worse.
- She has thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
A new mother having any of these signs or symptoms should take steps right away to get help.