Understanding Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression and anxiety are the No. 1 complication of having a baby. But don’t let this common, treatable condition rob you of this special time in your family’s life.

What is postpartum depression?

Most mothers have heard about the “baby blues.” This common condition occurs in 50 to 80 percent of women within the first few days after delivery and usually lasts a few days to about two weeks. Postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety is more intense and long-lasting and can emerge any time in the first year after birth. Postpartum depression describes a spectrum of mood disorders that occur in 15 to 20 percent of postpartum patients. Many of these mothers were depressed during pregnancy or had a history of depression or anxiety.


Causes

There is no single cause or reason a woman has postpartum depression/anxiety. Postpartum depression/anxiety results from a combination of biologic, hormonal, environmental and psychological factors.

Risk factors

You are at risk for postpartum depression if you:

  • Have been previously diagnosed with postpartum depression
  • Experiences depression or anxiety during pregnancy
  • Have a personal or family history of mood disorders or mental illness
  • Have a history of severe PMS
  • Experience social isolation
  • Have a poor support system
  • Have a history of abuse

Symptoms

The symptoms for postpartum depression are different for every woman but may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sadness
  • Crying
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Hopelessness
  • Excessive worries or fears
  • Persistent negative thoughts about yourself or your baby
  • Nightmares or flashbacks of a traumatic birth
  • Racing thoughts
  • Guilt

Treatment

If your symptoms persist for more than two weeks, become more severe or interfere with activities of daily living, call your doctor. There are programs available for treatment of postpartum depression/anxiety, including medical care, support groups and individual counseling. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Chronic, untreated mood disorders can negatively affect every relationship and even can be life-threatening.

Remember, you are not alone. You are not to blame. Your experience is real, and help is available. The longer you wait for treatment, the harder it is to treat postpartum depression. If you don’t like how you are feeling, call your doctor. Tell someone.