Understanding Postpartum Depression

Understanding Postpartum Depression

You’ve just had a baby. You expected
to be excited and happy. But instead you find yourself crying for no reason. You may have
trouble coping with your daily tasks. You feel sad, tired, and hopeless most of the time.
You may even feel ashamed or guilty. But what you’re going through is not your fault and
you can feel better. Talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can help.

Woman sitting on bed looking at newborn in crib.

What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that
affects the way you think and feel. The most common symptom is a feeling of deep
sadness. You may also feel as if you just can’t cope with life. Other symptoms
include:

  • Gaining or losing a lot of
    weight

  • Sleeping too much or too
    little

  • Feeling tired all the
    time

  • Feeling restless

  • Crying a lot

  • Having too little or too much
    appetite.

  • Withdrawing from friends and
    family

  • Having headaches, aches and
    pains, or stomach problems that won’t go away.

  • Fears of harming your
    baby

  • Lack of interest in your
    baby

  • Feeling worthless or
    guilty

  • No longer finding pleasure in
    things you used to

  • Having trouble thinking
    clearly or making decisions

  • Thinking about death or
    suicide

Depression after childbirth

You may be weepy and tired right
after giving birth. These feelings are normal. They’re sometimes called the “baby
blues.” These blues go away after 1 to 2 weeks. However, postpartum (meaning “after
birth”) depression lasts much longer and is more severe than the “baby blues.” It can
make you feel sad and hopeless. You may also fear that your baby will be harmed and
worry about being a bad mother.

What causes postpartum depression?

The exact cause of postpartum
depression is unknown. Changes in brain chemistry or structure are believed to play a
big role in depression. It may be due to changes in your hormones during and after
childbirth. You may also be tired from caring for your baby and adjusting to being a
mother. All these factors may make you feel depressed. In some cases, your genes may
also play a role.

Depression can be treated

There are many ways to treat
postpartum depression. Talking to your healthcare provider is the first step toward
feeling better.

When to call your healthcare
provider

Call your healthcare provider if
you: 

  • Cry for no clear reason

  • Have trouble sleeping,
    eating, and making choices

  • Questions whether you can
    handle caring for a baby

  • Have intense feelings of
    sadness, anxiety, or despair that prevent you from being able to do your daily
    tasks

Resources

  • National Institute of Mental
    Health

    866-615-6464

    www.nimh.nih.gov

  • National Alliance on Mental
    Illness

    800-950-6264

    www.nami.org

  • Mental Health America

    800-969-6642

    www.nmha.org

  • National Suicide Hotline

    800-784-2433
    (800-SUICIDE)