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Postpartum Depression


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2022 | Modified Sep 2022
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Post means "after," and partum means "pregnancy," so postpartum refers to the time period after you have a baby. It's usually considered the first 6 weeks.

Depression is feeling so sad and hopeless that you can't do your normal activities.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is feeling so sad and hopeless that you can't do your normal activities. It starts during the weeks and months after having a baby.

  • It’s common to feel sad or miserable in the first few days after giving birth—these feelings are normal and usually go away within 2 weeks

  • Postpartum depression is a more serious mood change that lasts for weeks or months

  • You have trouble doing daily activities and may lose interest in your baby

  • About 1 in 10 women gets postpartum depression

  • It can happen even if you never had depression before

  • If untreated, postpartum depression can last for months or years

  • Doctors treat postpartum depression with antidepressants and therapy

Go to the hospital right away if you're thinking of suicide or having violent thoughts, such as hurting your baby.

What causes postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression may be caused by the sudden drop in hormone levels after your baby is born.

Many women have no risk factors. But you’re more likely to get postpartum depression if you:

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?

Common symptoms:

  • Extreme sadness

  • Crying

  • Mood swings

  • Getting irritated easily

  • Not being interested in your baby

You may also have:

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Changes in sleep, such as sleeping too much or too little

  • Anxiety or panic attacks

  • Difficulty doing daily activities, such as showering

  • Worrying too much about your baby without good reason

  • Feeling hopeless or not good enough

  • Feeling guilty about any of these feelings

What is postpartum psychosis?

Psychosis is when you lose touch with reality. This may happen when postpartum depression is severe. You may have hallucinations or act very strangely. You may want to hurt yourself or your baby.

When should I go to the doctor for postpartum depression?

You should see your doctor if:

  • You feel sad and have trouble doing your usual activities for more than 2 weeks after your baby is born

  • You have thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby

  • Friends and family have noticed you seem to be depressed or having a hard time coping with things

How can doctors tell if I have postpartum depression?

Doctors diagnose postpartum depression by asking you questions.

Sometimes doctors do blood tests to see if there is another problem, such as a thyroid disorder, causing your symptoms.

How do doctors treat postpartum depression?

Doctors treat postpartum depression with:

  • Antidepressant medicine

  • Psychotherapy

If your depression is very severe of if you have postpartum psychosis, you may need to be treated in the hospital. Often your baby can stay with you. Doctors treat postpartum psychosis with antipsychotic medicine and antidepressants.

If you're breastfeeding, doctors will use medicines that are safe for your baby.

How can I prevent postpartum depression?

To prevent postpartum depression, try to:

  • Get as much rest as possibly by napping when the baby naps

  • Ask family members and friends for help

  • Talk to your partner, family, or friends about your feelings

  • Take a shower and get dressed every day

  • Get out of the house—take a walk, meet with friends, or run an errand

  • Spend time alone with your partner

  • Join a support group to talk with other mothers

  • Recognize that tiredness, doubts, and trouble concentrating are normal for new mothers and will pass

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